2013 U.S Open Review
The women’s final at the 2013 U.S. Open looked as if it would unfold as tidily as the previous two weeks of matches. Just as No. 1 and 2 seeds Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka marched through their respective sides of the singles draw, it looked as if Williams would power past Azarenka in undramatic fashion – certainly less so than last year, when Serena needed to stave off a pair of championship points before earning a comeback victory.
Up 4-1 and cruising in the second set, the wheels came off for Williams. A flurry of unforced errors and double faults – either caused by the gusty winds, or by Williams’ annoyance with them – let Azarenka force a tiebreak, which she won, 8-6. Maybe, just maybe, the third set would provide the dramatic twist that had been missing throughout the 2013 U.S. Open.
Or maybe not. Serena shrugged off the wind and found her game in the third set, blowing Azarenka off the court with a 6-1 final set and earning her fifth U.S. Open women’s singles title. A pair of aces – one at 126 mph – were part of the charge as Williams won 85 percent of her first serve points, then broke Azarenka’s serve twice. She even beat Azarenka in sheer volume, unleashing grunts over the final two points that drowned out the Belarusian’s squeals and ended the match after two hours and 45 minutes. The showdown was the longest women’s final since the USTA started keeping track of match times in 1980.
Williams’ dominance at age 31 (she turns 32 in a couple of weeks) on her road to repeating as champion was the story of Week 2 at the 2013 U.S. Open. Following her closer-than-the-score-looks 6-4, 6-1 win over Sloane Stephens in the fourth round, Williams bageled 18th seed Carla Suarez Navarro in the quarters before dispatching No. 5 seed Na Li 6-0, 6-3. Williams is now the oldest U.S. Open women’s singles champ since Margaret duPont won in 1950.
Azarenka’s road to a second consecutive finals appearance smoothed considerably after her early struggles against Alize Cornet in the third round and Ana Ivanovic in the fourth. Following those three-set wins, Azarenka cruised past Daniela Hantuchova in the quarters and Flavia Pennetta in the semis, dropping just 11 games total in the straight-set wins.
That Azarenka and Williams would reprise their finals duel from last year was one of the few dramatic developments of Week 2 at the Open. With Maria Sharapova sidelined by injury and Wimbledon champ Marion Bartoli enjoying a sudden retirement, the top seeds had an easier route to the finals than they might have. Combine that with early exits from Agnes Redwanska, Caroline Wozniacki and Petra Kvitova, and anything less than a Williams-Azarenka final would have been a major surprise. Fifth seed Na Li was the only other single-digit seed to make it to the semis, following her three-set win over Ekaterina Makarova in the quarters.
In the end, the women’s final – like the men’s, coincidentally – was a 1 vs. 2 showdown. And while the outcome may have been the same as last year, the drama that unfolded in the second set was one of the few non-weather surprises of the week. With her thunderous third set, however, Williams restored order.
QUOTES OF THE U.S. OPEN
“A hug? No, I don’t need a hug in that moment. I need a game, points. I don’t need the hug. I went to the ballboys to say, ‘Well, that’s tough.’ It was just a joke.” – Francesca Schiavone after hugging a ballboy during her first-round loss to Serena Williams
“Having Serena serve at 3-1 up in the second set is not ideal.” – Sloane Stephens after her fourth-round loss to Williams.
“I think it’s just showing that our sport is taking physical ability to another level. You see everybody taking care of their bodies much more, really paying attention to nutrition, fitness, everything. Everyone is working out. Recovery is more important. I think that is the big aspect of allowing older players to play longer careers.” – Victoria Azarenka, the only women’s semifinalist under 30.
“That’s the great part about it; We completely get along, and once the match is one we are completely opponents. That’s what it’s about. When the match is over, we completely get along. We leave everything on the court, play as hard as we can, almost as if we’ve never met each other in our lives.” – Serena Williams on her relationship with Victoria Azarenka
“Probably my favorite artist would be Marvin Gaye, and Stevie Wonder is incredible. Favorite song is tough; there are so many. But ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine” is one of the best ones.” – Victoria Azarenka on music; her boyfriend is musician RedFoo, the son of Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr.
“She’s had more come ons – I think three – than winners, zero.” – ESPN’s Pam Shriver on Victoria Azarenka during her win over Ana Ivanovic in the fourth round. For more on the tennis phenomenon of shouting “Come on!” – as Venus Williams did after her finals victory, check out Deadspin’s story at http://deadspin.com/why-do-tennis-players-say-come-on-so-much-1249903336