Rankings can be deceiving. Victoria Azarenka entered her match with Serena Williams as the no. 1 ranked player in the world. Still, no one who watched the 2012 U.S. Open from start to finish would have pegged Azarenka as the favorite over Williams once both players reached the final match.
Williams lived up to expectations and proved herself worthy of taking over the no. 1 ranking. She rallied to claim a 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 victory over Azarenka on Sunday afternoon. Williams clawed back from a 5-3 deficit in the final set to claim her 15th career Grand Slam singles title. At 30 years old, she is the oldest women's player to win the U.S. Open since Martina Navratilova won at age 31 in 1987.
It marks the second straight Grand Slam singles title for Williams this season after she also triumphed at Wimbledon. Mix in the Olympic gold medals in singles and doubles she earned in London and a Grand Slam doubles title at Wimbledon and it adds up to the most successful 2012 season for any women's tennis player.
Her dominance reached its peak in the 2012 London Olympics and again in the U.S. Open. Williams dropped just 17 games en route to winning her singles gold medal. Before facing Azarenka on Sunday, she had lost just 19 games total in her U.S. Open matches. She has posted a 26-1 match record since the French Open.
Azarenka gave her a much more serious challenge than Williams had experienced in any of her U.S. Open matches this year. After dropping the first set, Azarenka rallied to take the second set easily. It was the first time she had dropped a set to Azarenka this season. Williams had beaten her in straight sets three previous times in 2012.
Azarenka had Williams on the ropes in the third set and was just two points away from winning a U.S. Open title. But Williams broke her serve when she needed to do it and rallied to win four straight games to close out the set.
Williams has been a completely different player since suffering a surprising first-round loss to Virginie Razzano in the first round of the 2012 French Open. She returned from that three set setback with a new purpose and new determination to regain the form that made her the greatest women's tennis player of the past decade.
Winning her 14th Grand Slam singles title at Wimbledon proved a turning point because of how Williams had to do it. She battled through multiple three-set matches to fight her way to the top. Once she got there, the confidence returned and the old dominance reemerged.
Azarenka will retain her no. 1 ranking despite finishing second to Williams. The 23 year-old Belarussian has enjoyed a strong year of her own. She won the singles title at the 2012 Australian Open and began the year by winning her first 26 matches. But Williams showed she has surpassed Azarenka and made a compelling case for being ranked first.
Nothing can match the impressiveness of Williams' comeback after two foot surgeries and several health scares. If her late season form continues into next season, nothing can prevent her from becoming the no. 1 ranked player once again.
John Coon has covered tennis at all levels as a sports reporter based in Salt Lake City. Coon was raised in a tennis loving family. All three of his sisters played competitively and he enjoys playing at a recreational level.
- Sports & Recreation
- Serena Williams
- Victoria Azarenka