Serena Williams’ wait for a record-equaling 24th Grand Slam singles title continues after former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka sensationally rallied to advance to the U.S. Open women’s final.
Stuck on 23 Slam trophies since winning the 2017 Australian Open and having lost four major finals since that last success at Melbourne Park, Williams looked on track to earn a 2018 U.S. Open final rematch with Naomi Osaka after blitzing Azarenka in the first set.
But two-time major champion Azarenka completed a memorable comeback to prevail 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 on Thursday for her first Slam final since the 2013 U.S. Open decider, which she lost at Flushing Meadows.
Riding a 10-match winning streak and having won the Western & Southern Open, a nervous Azarenka did not look like a player in form to start the match in a battle of the mothers.
Appearing in her first Slam semifinal in seven years, Azarenka was broken in the opening game following two double faults. It was a sign of things to come against ruthless third-seeded Williams.
Committed to going big as she attacked Azarenka, a fast-starting Williams was unstoppable as the 38-year-old American superstar hit 12 winners and broke three times — she closed out a lopsided first set on her opponent’s serve.
Two-time U.S. Open runner-up Azarenka, however, turned the match on its head in a high-octane second set under lights at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Unseeded Azarenka settled in after saving a break point in the first game of the second set.
Finding her range and eliminating unforced errors, Azarenka dug deep as the Belarusian earned a pair of break points, only needing one for a 3-2 lead before consolidating.
Azarenka produced a complete turnaround, reeling off 12 winners and a solitary unforced error against Williams, whose timing appeared off as the showdown went to a deciding set.
There was a worrying moment in the second game when six-time U.S. Open champion Williams hunched over and required a medical timeout, re-emerging with a heavily strapped ankle.
Williams willed herself on, but Azarenka had all the momentum, breaking for a 3-0 advantage that she never relinquished.
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