Serena Williams provided the usual drama that we've come to expect at the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament. Her last two trips to the finals in Flushing Meadows, ended in tirade-marred exits. This time, the drama remained on the court.
Williams capped a dominant summer and earned player-of-the-year bragging rights by defeating No. 1 Victoria Azarenka 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 on Sunday in the U.S. Open final, after being just two points away from defeat and crushing the field for two weeks.
The fourth-ranked player in the world, Williams won singles and doubles titles at Wimbledon and in the London Olympics. She needed to battle back from a 3-5 third set deficit to win her fourth Open title. It was the first time since 1995 that the women's final went the distance.
When Azarenka hit her final backhand long, Williams lied on her back fully extended, dropped her racket and covered her face with her hands. On her way to shake hands at the net, she jumped several times.
"Oh my God," Williams said. "I honestly can't believe I won. I really was preparing my runner-up speech, because I thought, 'Man, she's playing so great."
Williams will turn 31 later this month but shows no signs of slowing down. And after such an exceptional summer, why should she? Even a foot-fault call in the third game of the second set didn't bother her at all. Remember, in 2009, a similar call sent her into a rage. "This is the first year ... in a long time I haven't lost my cool," she said.
After returning from nearly a year-long absence in June 2011 from medical scares and injuries, including a hematoma in her stomach and two foot surgeries, the American champion is playing some of her best tennis.
"I cannot believe that she will lose her motivation," said Patrick Mouratoglou, who runs an academy near Paris and who started working with Williams on an informal basis after she lost in the first round of the French Open. "She really feels she can win every tournament."
With 15 major titles, she is in sixth place and trails Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova by three.
"For me, she is the greatest player of all time," said Azarenka, 23, who said she left it all out on the court and had no regrets about the way she played.