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09/05/13 9:42 PM
The Williams sisters beat Sara Errani and
Roberta Vinci in the doubles quarterfinals on Thursday, and Ashleigh
Barty and Casey Dellacqua reached their third Grand Slam doubles final
of the year.
Published September 05, 2013 12:04
NEW YORK, NY, USA - Venus Williams and Serena Williams got some old fashioned revenge on Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci on Thursday, beating them in the doubles quarterfinals of the US Open.
Having lost to Errani and Vinci in the quarterfinals of this year's Australian Open,
the Williams sisters came out swinging from the beginning this time,
saving the only break point they faced and breaking the co-World No.1s
four times en route to a comprehensive one-hour, five-minute, 63 61
really excited," Serena said. "They beat us the last time we played,
they're playing so well and they're the No.1 team, so we went in there
with low expectations, and just trying to have fun.
"We weren't thinking about revenge - we were just thinking about what we could do to win the match."
Everyone knows about the Williams sisters' incredible record in Grand
Slam doubles finals - they are 13-0 - but they also have an incredible
record in the next round, going 13-1 in Grand Slam doubles semifinals.
And they've won the last 13 of those, their only loss in the doubles
semifinals of a Grand Slam coming way back at the 1999 Australian Open to Lindsay Davenport and Natasha Zvereva.
And the semifinals are all they're thinking about right now. "We're
not thinking about the final," Serena said. "We're shocked we've gotten
this far - it's only our second tournament of the year in doubles, so
we're just happy to still be in the tournament and we're just thinking
about tomorrow's semifinal."
Awaiting the Williams sisters in the semifinals are No.5 seeds Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka. The Williams sisters are 5-0 against them and have won their last four meetings in straight sets.
Meanwhile, the other semifinal was already played on Thursday, with No.8 seeds Ashleigh Barty and Casey Dellacqua beating No.10 seeds Sania Mirza and Zheng Jie in an hour and five minutes, 62 62.
Barty and Dellacqua are now through to their third Grand Slam doubles final of the year, having been runners-up at the Australian Open (to Errani and Vinci) and Wimbledon (to Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai).
Reaching three Grand Slam doubles finals in the same year doesn't seem
to be such a rare feat lately, though - Errani and Vinci actually did it
themselves just last year (the Italians were runners-up at the Australian Open and champions at both the French Open and US Open last year).
09/05/13 9:59 PM
Williams Fan Forever
It has been more than a year since Patrick Mouratoglou became that rare figure in Serena Williams’s life: a coach outside her family circle.
The relationship — personal as well as professional — has been rewarding, and if there is one spot that symbolizes their mutual success, it is the new display case that sits in Mouratoglou’s eponymous academy in the Paris suburbs.
It is filled, at Williams’s insistence, with the trophies she has won since she and Mouratoglou began working together before Wimbledon last year.
“She’s won so much, we’re already making a second case,” Mouratoglou said at the National Tennis Center on Thursday. “Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, the year-end championships, Miami, Charleston, Madrid, the French Open. They’re all there.”
Two more singles victories from Williams in New York, and there will be another major trophy to put in the new case.
It is tempting to get ahead of ourselves in light of Williams’s dominance thus far. She has not dropped a set in five matches and was pushed to 6-4 by only Sloane Stephens in the opening set of their soon-to-be-lopsided fourth-round encounter.
This has been golden-age Williams: focused, stingy and unapologetically ruthless, with a few growls and shrieks for punctuation, but with self-containment providing the bulk of the narrative.
It looks, from the outside, like a fine place to be, but she knows deep down, just as we know deep down, that the players most capable of throwing a stone in her reflecting pool are still in the tournament.
In Friday’s semifinals, Williams will face Li Na, one of the few women with the weapons and defenses to stay with Williams in a baseline punching contest.
Get through that and Williams is likely to have to deal in the final with Victoria Azarenka, who faces the unseeded Italian veteran Flavia Pennetta in the other semifinal. Azarenka has beaten Williams in their last two outdoor hardcourt matches and nearly beat her here in last year’s emotional journey of a final.
Li has beaten Williams only once, in 2008, and has not taken a set off her since 2009. But their three matches over the last two seasons have been competitive and occasionally spectacular. Though the fifth-seeded Li is still capable of midmatch walkabouts and not nearly as confident at the core as Williams, she has been producing bold patches of play here as she continues her journey with the veteran coach Carlos Rodriguez.
“She knows how to do many, many things,” Mouratoglou said. “She does not have real weaknesses. O.K., the forehand is not as good as the backhand, there are moments when the forehand catches a bit of a cold, but in general she’s a complete player who moves well, is very athletic, returns well and is aggressive in the game and does not have too many holes. She’s a dangerous player, no doubt.”
Her relationship with Rodriguez becomes even more intriguing in a match like Friday’s. Rodriguez has analyzed and plotted against Williams’s game with perhaps more success than anyone. During his many years coaching the unimposing yet great Justine Henin, she won 6 of her 14 matches against Williams before retiring for good in 2011.
Rodriguez began working with Li in July 2012, and she might already have won a major title on his watch if she had not twisted her ankle with a one-set lead over Azarenka in this year’s Australian Open final.
But for now her only Grand Slam singles title remains the one she won at the 2011 French Open before they joined forces.
“The connection with Justine was clearly very, very strong, and it worked for a long time with lots of success,” Mouratoglou said. “Now if he’s capable of reproducing these kinds of results with another player, it will show, really show, that he is extremely competent.
“For the moment, in my view, he has not taken Li to a new level. It will come perhaps. Often you need time. But for me in terms of results, her former coach, Thomas Hogstedt, did get her to a new level, and that’s what counts.
“Producing beautiful tennis, that’s good, but our job is to get players to win and to move into new spheres. I’m not saying Carlos and Li Na won’t do it. I say that we have to wait, but she is clearly a player who has the potential to win more Grand Slam tournaments.”
Li, like Williams and Pennetta, is 31 years old. The only other time in the Open era that three of the four women’s semifinalists at a Grand Slam tournament were over 30 was at Wimbledon in 1994, when Martina Navratilova, Gigi Fernandez and Lori McNeil were the 30-somethings. But it was the youngster, Conchita Martínez, 22 at the time, who walked off with the trophy.
It could happen again this time with Azarenka, 24, but heading into the business end of yet another major event, no one has been more point-in, point-out impressive than Williams.
Perhaps best to hurry up and get that second trophy case ready at the academy.
09/06/13 5:53 PM
NEW YORK (AP) -- Serena Williams
was cruising along in the U.S. Open semifinals, serving up another
bagel, when, out of nowhere, a competitive tennis match broke out.
Didn't last long.
defending champion won the first seven games of Friday's match, then
actually fell down a break early in the second set, before quickly
regaining it on the way to a 6-0, 6-3 victory over fifth-seeded Li Na.
The day's only drama came in the second-to-last game - an affair that
went eight deuces and lasted 13 minutes, 49 seconds. Li saved six match
points, but it only delayed the inevitable. Williams dropped two points
in the next game, but ended it and let out a long, celebratory scream
after a 107 mph service winner.
''It got tough at the end. I got a little nervous, but I was able to close it out finally,'' Williams said.
he victory set up a rematch of
last year's final against Victoria Azarenka, who beat 83rd-ranked Flavia
Pennetta 6-4, 6-2 in the earlier semifinal.
first set of the Williams match marked the third straight set the No. 1
seed won at love, and when she held serve to open the second, she had
won her 24th straight game of the tournament, dating to her match last
Sunday against Sloane Stephens.
Nothing lasts forever, of course,
though Williams is extending her string of dominance in the women's game
deep into a second decade.
Sunday's match will mark her 21st
Grand Slam final. She stands one win away from capturing her fifth U.S.
Open title and 17th major trophy. This will be the first time the same
two women have met in back-to-back finals at Flushing Meadows since it
was Williams against her sister, Venus, in 2001-02.
pink shoes embroidered with tiny hearts on the heels, each of them with a
number inside of it - '99, '02, '08, '12 - marking each year she
hoisted the trophy in Queens.
She's showing every sign of needing a redesign, and Azarenka is the only one standing in the way.
always have really good matches. I look forward to it,'' Williams said.
' It's great to get to another final. She's a great player and she
lifts her game when it really counts.''
Azarenka, the 2012 and
2013 Australian Open champion, is trying to become the first woman to
win the majors in Melbourne and New York in the same year since Martina
Hingis in 1997.
09/06/13 8:30 PM
NEW YORK (AP) -- At the end, and only at the very end, did
Serena Williams face anything resembling a challenge in her U.S. Open
Six times, Williams was a single point from winning. Six times, she failed to come through.
that did, of course, was delay the inevitable. On match point No. 7,
Williams delivered a 107 mph service winner, then let out two shouts, a
mixture of relief and rejoicing after a 6-0, 6-3 victory over
fifth-seeded Li Na of China that put the defending champion back in the
final at Flushing Meadows.
''I got a little nervous,'' said the
No. 1-ranked Williams, who will face No. 2 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus
on Sunday in a rematch of last year's final, ''but I was able to close
it out, finally.''
She usually does.
Pursuing a fifth U.S. Open
championship, and 17th Grand Slam title overall, Williams has been so
dominant, so untouchable, during these two weeks that the only question
each time out was how long it would take her to win, not whether she
Through 12 sets across
six matches in this tournament, Williams has lost a total of only 16
games (for context, Azarenka lost 13 in one match alone). The
31-year-old American can become the first woman to win the U.S. Open
without dropping a set since - yes, you guessed it - Williams herself in
2008. She also did it in 2002.
Williams won 24 games in a row
during a particularly perfect stretch that began in the second set of
her fourth-round victory over No. 15-seeded Sloane Stephens, continued
through a 6-0, 6-0 quarterfinal win against No. 18 Carla Suarez Navarro,
and concluded with a 1-0 lead in the second set against 2011 French
Open champion Li.
So what's the secret to making things competitive against Williams?
got to fight. You've got to run. You've got to grind. And you've got to
bite with your teeth for whatever opportunity you have,'' Azarenka
said. ''She's obviously an amazing player. She's the greatest of all
Williams is definitely bolstering her case lately.
She is 66-4 with eight titles in
2013. Go back to the start of Wimbledon in June 2012, and she is 97-5
with 13 trophies, including three from the past five Grand Slam
Half of Williams' losses this season were to Azarenka, including one at a hard-court tuneup in Cincinnati last month.
know each other pretty well. I know her strengths; she knows my
strengths,'' Azarenka said. ''That's what it's all about, about those
turning points, who wants it more, who's willing to go for it more.''
has lost 12 of their 15 career meetings, but she did manage to push
Williams to three sets a year ago in New York. This will be the first
time the same women play each other in the U.S. Open final two years in a
row since Williams lost to older sister Venus in 2001, then beat her in
Azarenka, a two-time Australian
Open champion, improved to a tour-leading 31-1 on hard courts this
season by overcoming all sorts of sloppiness to beat 83rd-ranked Flavia
Pennetta of Italy 6-4, 6-2 in Friday's first semifinal.
her a little,'' said Pennetta, who kept a blue tissue box on one of her
sideline chairs and occasionally went over to blow her nose between
Azarenka hit six
double-faults, had far more unforced errors (25) than winners (15) and
was broken in five of her nine service games. She's one of the game's
top returners, however, and wound up with eight breaks of Pennetta, who
was in her first Grand Slam semifinal at age 31.
Now comes a far
tougher test against Williams, who had to go right back on court Friday
night to team with Venus in the women's doubles semifinals.
shadows stretching across the blue court in the early evening, and the
Arthur Ashe Stadium lights on, it took Li 38 minutes of play to earn a
game against Williams. And then - gasp! - she won another, breaking for a
2-1 lead in the second set with a big cross-court forehand to a corner
that forced an error by Williams.
It was a jarring shift. It also was fleeting.
as Li is, with power off both wings and superb court coverage that
helped her reach two Australian Open finals, she simply couldn't stay
with Williams. After Li went up 40-love to get within one point of a 3-1
advantage in the second set, she ceded six points with missed backhands
to let Williams break right back. And Williams broke again to go up
Li entered the day with a tournament-best 29 aces, but
Williams did not allow one serve to get past her. Williams also tracked
down ball after ball, using the nimble footwork that coach Patrick
Mouratoglou says was the first thing he wanted to improve when they
began working together 15 months ago.
Repeatedly, Li would appear
to hit a point-ending shot. And repeatedly, Williams would somehow get
it back over the net. That's why Li finished with a paltry eight
winners, 11 fewer than Williams.
''I need more practice,'' Li said.
Williams leaves plenty of opponents feeling that way.
there was the matter of winning Friday's last point, and that took a
while. With Li serving while down 5-2, they played an epic, 22-point
game. Li erased match point No. 1 with a 101 mph service winner. On No.
2, Williams pushed a backhand wide. On No. 3, Li's backhand down the
line drew a forehand into the net. On No. 4, a 103 mph serve produced a
netted forehand return. On No. 5, Williams ended a 10-stroke exchange by
sailing a swinging forehand volley wide, then dropped to her knees. No.
6 ended with Li's overhead winner.
When Williams sent a backhand
long to lose the game after the nearly 1 1/2-hour match's most
compelling 13 minutes, 49 seconds, some spectators responded with a
standing ovation. If they were figuring there might only be one more
game, they were right.
Serving at 5-3, 30-all, Williams watched
Li's backhand drop long, then bent forward and screamed, pumping her
left fist. Once again, she was a point from the final, and this time she
was able to seal the deal, thanks to a strong serve that Li could only
put in the net.
Because of the way it finished, the match felt much closer than it ever really was.
During an on-court interview, Williams was asked about taking on Azarenka again.
we always have really good matches. I look forward to it,'' Williams
told the crowd. ''It's great to get to another final. She's a great
player and she lifts her game when it really counts.''
Sounds like a good description of Williams.
09/06/13 10:54 PM
Three quick thoughts from No. 1 Serena Williams' 6-0, 6-3 victory against No. 5-seed Li Na in the second U.S. Open semifinals on Friday.
• Serena Williams was simply at a different level against the No. 5-seed LI Na, who's realistically the third-best player in the draw. She overpowered Li with weighty and deep shots, she served and moved better and didn't give Li a chance to bring her variety to bear. With the exception of a ten-minute lapse early in the second set, Serena simply dazzled. We keep hearing about Father Time's assault on Roger Federer at age 31. Well, Serena was born within a month of Federer, and she is playing as well as ever (which is saying something). Dropping just 16 games in six matches, she is now a match from a fifth Grand Slam title.
• What a curious match for Li Na. For five rounds, Li -- another competitor north of age 30 -- played inspiring tennis. She attacked with unprecedented frequency, she defended and served well and showed obvious poise. She said in a recent Tennis Channel interview that she's a work in progress, but today she was rendered a bystander. After she was blown out in the first set, she caught a gear for a brief moment and led in the second set 2-1, 40-0. But just like that, Serena woke up, resumed pounding and, mere minutes later the match was over, a 6-0, 6-3 rout.
• After "suitable rest," Serena will return to the court Friday night to play in the doubles semifinals with Venus. And with the finals on Sunday, there will be scant time to reflect on this win. But this has the make the short list of Serena's "best ever" matches. Against a top opponent in form, on the biggest stage in the sport, Serena was peerless. Stats don't always tell the story, but they offer a lot of forensic evidence. Serena served well, returned well, kept the ball in the court and simply smothered Li Na. Last year, Azarenka came within two points of taking down the Great Serena Williams. But, boy, it's hard to see Serena failing to close out still another Grand Slam.
09/08/13 7:03 PM
NEW YORK (AP) -- Fussing with her skirt and flubbing her shots,
Serena Williams was troubled in the U.S. Open final by the swirling air
and the strong play of Victoria Azarenka.
After one miss, Williams
declared, ''I can't play in this wind.'' After blowing a big lead and
dropping the second set, Williams chucked her racket toward the
sideline, and it bounced back onto the court.
n the end, Williams pulled herself together, as she usually does when
it matters the most. Facing her only test of the past two weeks, the
No. 1-seeded Williams overcame No. 2 Azarenka 7-5, 6-7 (6), 6-1 on
Sunday for a fifth championship at Flushing Meadows and second in a row.
who turns 32 on Sept. 26, raised her Grand Slam singles title count to
17, the sixth-most in history and one shy of Martina Navratilova and
Chris Evert. Williams collected a $3.6 million prize, including a $1
million bonus for producing the best results during the North American
summer hard-court circuit leading up to the U.S. Open.
nine aces, one at 126 mph, Williams improved to 67-4 with a career-high
nine titles in 2013. Since a first-round exit at the 2012 French Open,
she is 98-5 with 14 titles, winning four of the past six Grand Slam
such a great opponent, such a great fighter,'' Williams said, ''and
that's why she's been able to win multiple Grand Slams. That's why it
was never over until match point.''
Yes, this one did not come
easily, even though it appeared to be nearly over when Williams went
ahead by two breaks at 4-1 in the second set. Williams served for the
match at 5-4 and 6-5 - only to have the gutsy Azarenka break each time.
Still, Williams regrouped and regained control.
''In the third set, Serena really found a way to calm down and
restart from zero and quickly erase what happened,'' said Williams'
coach, Patrick Mouratoglou.
This was a rematch of last year's
final, also won by Williams in three sets, and two-time Australian Open
champion Azarenka provided another challenge with her big swings off
''It is a tough loss, but to be in the final and play against the
best player - who deserves to win today - it's incredible,'' said
Azarenka, who is from Belarus. ''I gave it all today. We showed our
hearts. We fought hard.''
Four times, Azarenka was only two points
from taking the opening set. At one such moment, with Williams serving
at deuce after a double-fault, she was called for a foot fault, erasing
what would have been a 121 mph ace. There was another foot-fault call in
the second set, too. They brought back memories of the American's loss
to Kim Clijsters in the 2009 semifinals, when Williams was docked a
point, and later fined, for a tirade against a line judge over a
There was no such outburst directed at officials
this time, although there was that racket toss. After the call in the
match's 10th game, Williams simply put a hand to her face, composed
herself, and won the point with a down-the-line backhand she celebrated
with a fist pump, some foot stomping and a yell of ''Come on!''
wound up holding there with a 104 mph ace, part of what seemed to be a
match-altering stretch. She won five consecutive games and 16 of 18
points to take the first set and go up a break in the second.
could see she clicked,'' Mouratoglou said. ''She realized she was not
aggressive enough. She was letting Vika dictate too much, and all of a
sudden, things completely changed.''
Well, at least for a while.
lead grew to 4-1 in the second set, before Azarenka made things
competitive again, which shouldn't surprise anyone. Azarenka is
responsible for two of Williams' four losses this season. And entering
Sunday, Azarenka was 31-1 on hard courts this season, and showed why for
portions of the final, playing far better than she had in her preceding
six matches in New York.
But she simply could not keep pace with
Williams, who eventually adjusted to her opponent and the wind that
topped 15 mph. Williams put aside her issues to finish with a 36-17 edge
At the outset, though, the breeze clearly bothered her as much as Azarenka did.
caught service tosses. She grabbed at her skirt to try to stop it from
flapping around. And, most importantly, she was thrown off by balls that
danced oddly. Six of the first 16 points ended with unforced errors by
Williams, which allowed Azarenka to go ahead 2-1.
Looking hesitant at times, Williams did not show the same dominance
she had while dropping only 16 games during six straight-set victories
through the semifinals. And after Williams did go ahead, Azarenka made
things interesting with a hard-hitting comeback.
The first time
Williams served for the championship, at 5-4, Azarenka hit a cross-court
forehand winner for break point, then forced a backhand long. Williams
came right back to break for a 6-5 edge. Given a second chance to serve
it out, she double-faulted to get broken for the fourth time.
year ago, they played the first three-set women's final in New York
since 1995. And they went the distance again, a total of 2 hours, 45
minutes, because Azarenka was superior in the tiebreaker.
came time to close the deal yet again, Williams shined. She has six of
the eight winners in the third set, forced Azarenka into 15 miscues, and
soon enough, was hopping up and down after finishing with a service
winner. Williams kept pumping her fist afterward, even while sipping
from a water bottle.
Azarenka faltered late, the way she did when
losing the last four games in the 2012 final. She hit two of her seven
double-faults while getting broken to 3-1 in the third set, then could
only watch as Williams hit a pair of aces in the next game.
On Sunday, with former President Bill Clinton among the announced
crowd of 23,584 in Arthur Ashe Stadium, and Williams' older sister Venus
in a front-row seat, the fans were mostly cheering for the American.
''I definitely felt the love,'' Williams said, ''so thank you all so much for the support.''
equaled Steffi Graf with five U.S. Open titles, one behind Evert's
record of six in the Open era, which began in 1968. Williams never had
won two consecutive U.S. Opens, but now she has, adding to the trophies
she earned in New York in 1999 - at age 17 - then 2002 and 2008.
Those go alongside five from Wimbledon, five from the Australian Open, and two from the French Open, which she won this year.
Williams also became the first woman to surpass $9 million in prize
money in a single season, while topping $50 million for her career.
09/08/13 8:20 PM
Back in 1999, Serena Williams was a teenager at the U.S. Open with a
ton of talent and absolutely no idea about legacy, history or what might
happen 15 years from that finals defeat of Martina Hingis.
In 2013, Williams might have done enough to be considered the greatest champion in women's tennis history.
Serena took out No. 2 Victoria
Azarenka 7-5, 6-7 (6), 6-1 on Sunday to win her 17th Grand Slam title,
an accomplishment made all the more impressive by the sheer longevity of
her career as a Grand Slam champion and the fact that she will be
32-years-old by the time this month ends.
The win marks the fourth
time in her career that Williams was able to defend a Grand Slam title,
and the sixth time that Williams was able to win multiple Grand Slams
in the same season after her French Open (edited by me) win earlier this year.
wasn't an easy march for Serena, who looked like she would win this one
in straight sets, serving for the match twice. Azarenka, who has been
on the wrong side of this U.S. Open final for the second straight
season, battled back with a ton of heart in that second set, with the
two breaks and coming back in the tiebreaker to take the championship to
three sets, but it was there Serena decided to show just how complete
her game has become.
Williams' fastest serve on Sunday? Just 126 miles per hour, three
miles per hour faster than Rafael Nadal notched in his semifinal win
over Richard Gasquet.
Her third set stats when it looked like she
was on the ropes and the momentum was in Azarenka's favor? An 85 percent
first serve winning percentage, and facing just three break points, was
able to convert two of them.
Williams now goes to the 2014 season
with her eyes on a few different numbers. This win marks her 17th Grand
Slam, putting her just one big win away from tying the 18 that both
Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova were able to win, and it looks like
she won't need much of a tweak to her game to at least match that number
For now, Serena ends this season on an incredibly
high note, winning a tournament that looked a breeze until that second
set on Sunday and proving everyone that age is simply not a factor in
09/09/13 6:42 AM
World number one Serena Williams said she would have considered 2013
a disappointing year had she not won her fifth US Open title on Sunday.
The defending champion, 31,
beat second seed Victoria Azarenka
7-5 6-7 (6-8) 6-1 to claim her second Grand Slam title of the year following her French Open win.
Williams has now won 17 Grand Slam singles titles,
seven short of Margaret Court's all-time major record of 24 titles and
five from Steffi Graf's Open era mark of 22.
She arrived at Flushing Meadows having won eight titles and enjoyed a career-best winning streak of 34 matches in 2013.
by Sloane Stephens at the Australian Open and a
to Sabine Lisicki at Wimbledon meant Williams felt she needed another major title in New York.
"Absolutely," she said. "I felt almost disappointed with my year, to be honest.
won the French Open
but I wasn't happy with my performances in the other two Slams - and not even making it to the quarter-finals of one.
"So I definitely feel a lot better with at least a second Grand Slam under my belt this year."
Williams let a double-break lead slip and failed to
serve out the match twice in Sunday's final, admitting: "I think I got a
little uptight, which probably wasn't the best thing at that moment.
"I wasn't playing very smart tennis then, so I just had to relax and not do that again. But I did it again."
Azarenka battled superbly to force a third set, but Williams regained her poise to dominate the closing stages.
She added: "I thought: 'This is outrageous that I'm still out here, because I had a great opportunity to win already.'
"Serena Williams may have to cope with increasingly
frayed nerves as she prepares to enter her 33rd year, but with such
innate ability to regain her composure, there are very few clouds on the
"Azarenka's fightback from such a desperate position
suggests she will remain Williams's chief protagonist in the autumn of
her career. But it's likely to be a long and golden autumn, with Steffi
Graf's Open era record of 22 Grand Slam titles looking far less
impregnable than it did."
"So I thought: 'You know what? I just have to relax, calm down and play smarter tennis.'"
Williams, who began working with French coach Patrick
Mouratoglou last year, turns 32 later this month, but retirement remains
some way off.
"I feel great," she said. "I have never felt better. I
feel really fit. I can play a tournament like this, singles, doubles,
with tough, tough schedules. For the most part, I felt really good.
"I haven't felt like this in a number of years - I'm
excited about the possibilities. I don't know what can happen. I just
keep playing and do the best that I can."
Mouratoglou says Williams's determination to prove her ability every time she steps on court makes her unique in tennis.
"She is a champion; it is difficult to explain what is in the mind of a champion," he said.
"She feels she is the best and this self-confidence in
her game gives her the will to prove it to herself every day on the
court. She is Serena Williams and there is only one."
Former US President Bill Clinton described Williams as an inspiration to others.
"She always wanted to be someone who opened up new avenues for girls and women," he said.
Only Martina Navratilova (306), Chris Evert (299) and
Steffi Graf (278) have won more Grand Slam matches than Serena Williams
"She is able to play highly
competitive, high concentration tennis and win, but always be concerned
about why she was really doing it."
Azarenka, 24, fought valiantly to force a decider but
could not keep the pressure on Williams as she had in the previous set.
"I think it was the moment in the third set that the
momentum changed a little bit and I kind of felt like I lost that
momentum," said the Belarusian.
"It didn't happen just because I was out of focus or
something. She really made it happen. In that particular moment she was
tougher today. She was more consistent and she deserved to win.
"The game overall, there are things that could have been better, but I gave my heart. I fought as hard as I could.
"So that's what is important for me - that I lost to a great champion - but I'm still going to have my head up."
09/09/13 9:44 AM
NEW YORK -- This must be conceded: When delivered with a Slavic accent, even
the most cartoonish declarations of intent, the most warlike descriptions of a
tennis match, can seem perfectly sane. For example, no I'm-all ...
and-she's-like American player could, as Victoria Azarenka did before the
2013 U.S. Open final, pull off describing the way to beat Serena Williams as,
"You've got to fight, you've got to run, you've got to grind and you've got to
bite with your teeth for whatever opportunity you have."
Yes, it sounded great, even right somehow. But then, an odd suspension of
disbelief often occurs in native minds under the spell of stilted English, like
the year moviegoers didn't giggle when Ivan Drago told Rocky, "I must break
you." And after all the gnashing and grinding was through Sunday night, after
Williams survived a startling loss of serve and nerve to win her 17th major
title, 7-5, 6-7 (6), 6-1, it fell again to the resilient and daring daughter of
Minsk, Belarus, to boil the matter to an elemental truth. The Open may preen
about these days with a high-finance, high-fashion gloss, but at its core it's
still a jungle of ambition.
"She's a champion," Azarenka, 24, said Sunday after losing her second
straight three-set final to Williams at Flushing Meadow. "And she knows how to
repeat that. She knows what it takes to get there. I know that feeling, too. And
when two people who want that feeling so bad meet, it's like a clash. That's
what happens out there, those battles. And in the important moments, it's who is
more brave, who is more consistent or who takes more risk. With somebody like
Serena, you got to take risk. You can never play safe."
Yet as a cool wind swirled the skirt up her back and the chance to take
another bite out of history edged closer, it was the usually relentless Williams
who buckled. After Azarenka double-faulted three times to hand her a set and 4-1
lead in the second, Serena twice served for the title and twice was broken --
the same number of times she had been all tournament. Suddenly, Azarenka was
running free, winning crowd-pleasing points at net, outhitting Williams at key
moments. She smacked a swing-volley with the gale at her back and still caught
the line. She challenged a call and was right by a hair. Seven times, Azarenka
had played Williams at a major and lost. Now, Sunday evening, the tennis cosmos
seemed to be shifting.
"When you're always trying to write history -- or join history, in my case --
maybe you just get a little more nervous than you should," Williams said. "I
also think it's kind of cool because it means that it means a lot to you."
This Open meant plenty to both, which should come as a relief to a tour that,
for years now, has seen too many of its top players undone by a worrying lack of
fire. Williams has all but carried the women's game since completing her return
from a near-fatal pulmonary embolism 14 months ago, while carrying herself with
a maturity rarely seen during even her finest years on court. Too often, her
tennis career was potholed by sluggish trods to practice, or forays into
fashion, nail-care school or acting. But her 67-4 record this year, improved
footwork, focus and fitness all point to a talent that, at 31, is finally and
fully engaged. Without that commitment, Sunday's third-set rebound to dominant
form would almost be unthinkable.
"I still do so much fashion; I have a new Web series coming out," Williams
said late Sunday night, sitting in the shadow of Arthur Ashe Stadium. "But the
difference is I'm playing more. I'm practicing more. I'm on the court more; I'm
doing more than I've ever done. I'm taking tennis more serious and I appreciate
the moments more. When it almost was taken away, I remember I asked, 'Will I be
able to play tennis again?' I never thought I would ever have to ask that
question. I never really liked practicing, but now every time I go on court I'm,
like, 'This is fun.' I enjoy every moment more now."
Such commitment -- along with that gorgeous monster serve -- has made it easy
for many to declare parts or all of Serena's game "the greatest of all time," a
harmless enough exercise, and one easy to pull off given tennis' historically
unstable landscape. What with the shift from amateur to "open" draws, the
oft-radical changes in equipment, even just the gradual upgrade of the
Australian Open to a must-play event, the sport has no choice but to fuel such
debates with only a vague consensus.
"The greatest tennis player we've ever seen," Chris Evert announced after
watching Williams double-bagel Carla Suarez Navarro in the quarterfinals. "She
doesn't have the best record, but nobody's had a game like her."
And, really now, who's going to argue with Chrissie? She stands right in
front of Serena with 18 Grand Slam singles titles, tied with Martina
Navratilova, whom the consensus these days vaguely declares, along with Steffi
Graf and her 22, Williams' only real, all-time competition. It makes for endless
debate -- perfect, really, for a network looking to fill endless hours of
broadcast time -- in which no one can ever be wrong.
"I go by numbers," Williams said. "I don't think I'm the greatest because
Steffi has way more Grand Slams than me."
And that's usually where everyone lands, exhausted, while Margaret Court and
her 24 Slam titles get kicked mystifyingly to the curb. Then time and interest
runs out, and the real, disquieting question gets glossed over for another day.
To wit: Serena no doubt belongs in the conversation, and could well end it with
two more dominant years. But is that only because she's great? Or is it also
because the women's game, especially at the top, keeps failing lately to produce
a consistent challenger? The retirements of Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters --
not to mention the decline of her sister Venus -- left Williams operating
virtually in a league of her own.
No. 6 Li Na, for example, seemed a possible threat in Queens. At 31 she, too,
had reached peak physical condition and been revitalized by a new coach, Carlos
Rodriguez. But the mere prospect of meeting Serena in their semifinal proved
overwhelming. Li wandered into Ashe Stadium on Friday afternoon like someone
taking a tour.
"When I walk to the court, I was feeling the court was so big," she said
after the 6-0, 6-3 loss. "I mean, even my side, I was feeling like it was a
football [field]. ... I cannot focus."
The moment he saw Li standing at the baseline, waiting for Serena to get up
from her seat and play the first point, Rodriguez, Henin's longtime mentor, knew
his latest project was in trouble.
"I'm saying, 'She already took a grip on this match! Congratulations!' " he
said of Williams. "Because before they start, she's already in control of the
situation. Point for her: The match had started already for Serena, but not for
Li Na. Understand? That's why she's so good.
"And Serena's the kind of player -- and it's why she's one of the best ever,
you cannot learn this -- at the most difficult moment of the match she's always
the greatest. That's why she's Serena Williams. Justine was different. But
Serena has something that many players have but it's more developed: She's never
done. She is always there, and everybody knows that. That's why it's so
difficult to beat her."
At the same time, Rodriguez says, the women's field largely lacks the variety
and sting, the constitutional stubbornness, to push Williams out of her comfort
"She doesn't have to deal with players like Justine and Kim anymore; that's
the main reason why she's stronger than before," he said. "Today, Serena's
better because she does things like she didn't before -- change the pace, more
variation on her serve. She added a lot to her game. But many players today play
her same game -- and for her it's easier to deal with."
Of course, this is not Serena's problem and it's not all that rare. The men's
game has enjoyed a golden age the last few years, but not long ago the man she
has now matched for major singles titles, Roger Federer, was hearing the same
"Of course he's not playing as well as he did five years ago, but the field
wasn't challenging him then either," Navratilova said. "Other than Nadal on
clay, Roger had all the time to do his stuff; nobody was really bothering him.
And with Serena, they try to outhit her. Like, really? It's like when they'd try
to go at me: Thank you. I'll take it. Please do. Hit it harder!
"There are very few players who have that ability to bother her. That's why
Sam Stosur beat her [in the 2011 U.S. Open final]. It wasn't that Serena had
that much of an off-day; it's how Stosur played that bothered her. So now she's
saying, Thank you very much. She's sitting there on the baseline,
powering her way through people. They can't really threaten her."
Only Azarenka -- with two wins over Williams this year, and Sunday's meeting
yet another chance to go to class on her -- has shown the progress, grit,
variety and bigness of spirit needed to take Serena down consistently. When she
said, of Sunday, "I gave my heart; I fought as hard as I could," it wasn't just
accented bluster. Flopped on a bench in a hallway afterward, Azarenka looked
shattered. Theirs is a lopsided rivalry, all time, but close to even in 2013.
As, Serena's coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, puts it, Azarenka is "still building
herself." Time and age could well make the margin even tighter as Williams makes
the final push of her career.
"She obviously has something about her," Serena said Sunday night of
Azarenka. "She can be down and she'll come back; she can be up and she will play
like she's down. She has a hunger for the game that you don't see very often and
it's really good to see that she wants to get better -- just for tennis and for
nothing else. It's really refreshing. She's completely different than anyone,
and that's another cool thing about her. She has a lot of hunger, just like me.
I have a lot of hunger. I still do."
It happens to everyone. After years spent trying on different styles,
clothes, speech patterns, even professions, eventually you understand what fits.
You accept what you're best at. You come to yourself. Williams will be 32 this
"She wanted to do other things; she was curious also," Mouratoglou said.
"Maybe now she realizes how good she is at tennis, how exceptional she is."
Yes, now Serena realizes. She keeps insisting that her life today -- the
wins, the warmer crowds, this stage of her career -- is all a bonus, but she's
also greedy. She won't be leaving anytime
09/09/13 11:17 AM
"I'm saying, 'She already took a grip on this match! Congratulations!' " he said of Williams. "Because before they start, she's already in control of the situation. Point for her: The match had started already for Serena, but not for Li Na. Understand? That's why she's so good.
"And Serena's the kind of player -- and it's why she's one of the best ever, you cannot learn this -- at the most difficult moment of the match she's always the greatest. That's why she's Serena Williams. Justine was different. But Serena has something that many players have but it's more developed: She's never done. She is always there, and everybody knows that. That's why it's so difficult to beat her."
At the same time, Rodriguez says, the women's field largely lacks the variety and sting, the constitutional stubbornness, to push Williams out of her comfort zone.
"She doesn't have to deal with players like Justine and Kim anymore; that's the main reason why she's stronger than before," he said. "Today, Serena's better because she does things like she didn't before -- change the pace, more variation on her serve. She added a lot to her game. But many players today play her same game -- and for her it's easier to deal with."
09/09/13 2:18 PM
09/09/13 4:37 PM
09/10/13 7:32 AM
09/10/13 2:14 PM
09/10/13 5:47 PM
09/10/13 6:08 PM
09/11/13 12:06 PM
09/12/13 5:35 PM
09/13/13 6:21 PM
Serena was winning before Justine, during Justine, and after Justine. Keep trying, though.
09/15/13 3:20 PM
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