NEW YORK — Finally tested, even trailing, at the U.S. Open, Serena Williams turned things around just in time.
Two points from defeat, Williams suddenly regained her composure and her strokes, coming back to win the last four games and beat Victoria Azarenka, 6-2, 2-6, 7-5, on Sunday night for her fourth championship at Flushing Meadows and 15th Grand Slam title overall.
“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 said after the 2-hour, 18-minute match, adding: “I’m really shocked.”
Might be the only one.
After all, what really was stunning was that the top-ranked Azarenka made things as interesting as they were, given that she came into the day 1-9 against Williams.
Add in that Williams hadn’t dropped a set in the tournament, losing only 19 games through six matches before Sunday. All part of a tremendous run she is putting together in reaction to her loss at the French Open in late May, the American’s only first-round exit in 49 career major tournaments. Since then, she is 26-1, winning Wimbledon and the London Olympics.
There hadn’t been a three-set women’s final in New York since 1995, and Williams came through with a late charge to become the first woman to win Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in the same season since a decade ago, when — yes, that’s right — she did it.
“She never gives up,” said Azarenka, who managed only 13 winners, 31 fewer than Williams. “She’s definitely the toughest player, mentally, there is and she’s got the power.”
In the men’s final today, defending champion Novak Djokovic will face Olympic gold medalist Andy Murray. It’s the fifth consecutive year the tournament will conclude on Monday instead of the scheduled Sunday because of bad weather.
Djokovic beat David Ferrer of Spain, 2-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-2, in a semifinal that was halted in the first set because of impending rain Saturday and wrapped up Sunday.
Worries about a potentially dangerous storm led the tournament to postpone Williams-Azarenka, making this the fourth time in the last five years that the U.S. Open women’s final was pushed from Saturday to Sunday.
Azarenka was two points away from the championship at 5-3, 30-all, with the fourth-seeded Williams serving in the next game, but couldn’t convert. And when Azarenka served for the victory at 5-4, she showed the jitters that probably are understandable given that this was only her second career Grand Slam final, 17 fewer than Williams.
Azarenka made three errors in the next game, including a forehand into the net that let Williams break her to 5-all.
“Being so close, it hurts deeply,” Azarenka said.