Azarenka pre­vails in show­down with Ser­ena

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS - By REUTERS in Cincinnati

Vic­to­ria Azarenka won a duel be­tween the world’s two top play­ers by beat­ing No 1 Ser­ena Wil­liams 2-6, 6-2, 7-6 in the fi­nal of the Western and South­ern Open on Sun­day.

For two hours and 30 min­utes, Azarenka and Wil­liams en­gaged in a see­saw bat­tle be­fore the Be­laru­sian fi­nally clinched the vic­tory, win­ning a nervy tiebreak 8-6 to pre­vent the Amer­i­can from adding Cincinnati to her long list of tri­umphs.

“Ob­vi­ously, it’s a big win. It was a great match,” Azarenka told re­porters. “I’m re­ally, re­ally pleased with the way I pulled it out. It was a great bat­tle. There were no give­aways. It was pure fight.”

In a ca­reer that has gen­er­ated 54 sin­gles ti­tles, in­clud­ing 16 Grand Slams, Wil­liams had won just about ev­ery­thing there is to win in her sport — but not Cincinnati, one of the WTA’s most pres­ti­gious tour­na­ments.

Cincinnati will re­main a hole on Ser­ena’s re­sume for at least an­other year af­ter Azarenka an­swered the chal­lenge by claim­ing just her third win in 15 at­tempts against the 31-year-old Amer­i­can.

Wil­liams came into the con­test with a chance to pass sev­eral ca­reer mile­stones be­yond a first Cincinnati win, but she failed to se­cure any of them.

It was only the sec­ond time in 10 fi­nals this sea­son that Wil­liams failed to walk away with the tro­phy, while a vic­tory on Sun­day would have moved her up a notch on the ca­reer wins list into a tie for sev­enth place with Bri­tain’s Vir­ginia Wade and com­pa­triot Lind­say Daven­port.

But the day be­longed to Azarenka, who bagged her third ti­tle of the year and 17th of her ca­reer.

“We go against each other re­ally tough, so I think, yeah, it’s a good ri­valry,” said Wil­liams. “I’m No 1, she’s No 2 so we have that ri­valry which con­sists of meet­ing in the fi­nal, which makes it even more so ex­cit­ing.

“I per­son­ally was think­ing it is a good ri­valry and it’s good to have some­one out there that can play hard and fight so tough.

“She’s a great player. There’s a rea­son why she’s win­ning Grand Slams and do­ing so well.”

A mar­quee fi­nal fea­tur­ing the world’s No 1 and 2 play­ers ini­tially failed to de­liver the high-qual­ity spec­ta­cle ex­pected from two women who have cap­tured five of the last seven Grand Slams.

Azarenka, who strug­gled with her serve en route to beat­ing Je­lena Jankovic in the semi­fi­nals and held just three times, opened the match with two dou­ble faults to hand Wil­liams the early break.

Wil­liams con­tin­ued her as­sault on Azarenka with an­other break at 4-1 that left the Be­laru­sian wav­ing her racket in anger.

“I felt like my en­ergy wasn’t maybe there 100 per­cent at the be­gin­ning, but that’s what the match is about,” said Azarenka.

“It goes up and down when your bat­tling against some­body and you have an edge or then you don’t have an edge.”

JOHN SOM­MERS II / REUTERS

Vic­to­ria Azarenka sprays the crowd with cham­pagne af­ter win­ning Sun­day’s show­down be­tween the world’s top two fe­male play­ers.

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