After one of the most spectacular and intense matches in U.S. Open women's history, Serena Williams fell on her back on the Arthur Ashe Stadium court and covered her face with her hands.
Victoria Azarenka had just sailed a backhand long on match point, completing Williams's dramatic comeback from 5-3 down in the third set to forge a 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 victory.
Williams, who turns 31 later this month, won her fourth U.S. Open and 15th major. This summer alone, she won the singles and doubles titles at Wimbledon and the Olympics, and now the U.S. Open and its $1.9 million prize. She improved to 10-1 all-time against Azarenka, a 23-year-old native of Belarus, who roared back after losing the first set in 34 minutes.
"Oh my God, I honestly can't believe I won," Williams said in her on-court interview. "I really was preparing my runner-up speech because I thought, 'Man, she's playing so great.' I'm really shocked today. I'm so happy to have gotten so far."
Among those in the crowd for the first three-set women's final since 1995 were R.A. Dickey, Amar'e Stoudemire, Minka Kelly, Kevin Spacey, Will Ferrell, Billie Jean King and Anna Wintour.
Azarenka, who won her first and only major at the Australian Open in January, served for the match at 5-4, but quickly fell behind 0-40 and was broken when she hit a forehand into the net, causing the crowd of 23,000-plus to stand up and roar in approval.
They wanted more tennis.
Williams then held to make it 6-5, cranking a 108-mph service winner on game point.
Azarenka had two chances to send the match to a decisive tiebreak but Serena hit a backhand winner at 40-30 and Azarenka smacked a backhand into the net on her advantage. Azarenka smacked a forehand long on deuce and challenged it, but the replay showed it was clearly long, bringing Williams to match point.
"At the moment it's tough but Serena deserves the win," Azarenka said on court. "She showed how true of a champion she is. I'm just honored to stand with such a champion here.
"I definitely gave it all today and you know stepping out of this court today I will have no regrets."
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