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Serena Williams Seizes Her Eighth Miami Open Title

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Serena Williams Seizes Her Eighth Miami Open Title


IMG_9003_SerenaBy choosing South Florida as her base and lifting the trophy on seven prior occasions, the Miami Open is Serena Williams’ home. Consequently, this afternoon, first time finalist Carla Suarez Navarro needed to play the match of her career to steal the title from the two time defending champion. Williams romped Carla Suarez Navarro 6-2, 6-0 for a third successive Miami Open trophy, her eighth overall.

After coasting through the early stages, Serena averted close calls in the quarterfinals and semifinals. First, Williams fought off Sabine Lisicki 7-6, 1-6, 6-3, the player who ended her bid as defending champion for a sixth Wimbledon prize in 2013.

Next up, the world number one clashed with Simona Halep, the 2015 titlist at Indian Wells. Ironically, the Romanian received a walkover into the final from Williams at that event because of an inflamed knee. A match fit Serena battled herself, her opponent and the Romanian partisans but eventually prevailed 6-2, 4-6, 7-5.

The opening game was a glimpse of how the proceedings would unfold as Serena held at love. For a short time, Suarez Navarro managed to keep up and in the fifth game was at 30-30. However, with two aces, Serena moved ahead 3-2.

After the Spaniard dismissed double break point, Serena provoked a few errors and capitalized on her third break point. The American easily consolidated for 5-2. With another break, 17 winners, 8 unforced errors and in just 32 minutes, Williams secured the set.

Prior to the second set, Suarez Navarro conferred with her coach. His advice was to “change the rhythm, serve better, get the shots deeper”. Consequently, the first game of the second set, the Spaniard arrived at break point. But, with an ace, Serena dismissed the sole break point she stared at the entire match. Swiftly, Suarez Navarro surrendered the next game. The Spaniard won only two more points in the remainder of the match.

Suarez Navarro has yet to capture a set from the world number one in their five meetings. Moreover, this was Serena‘s fifth love set.

There were mixed feelings for Suarez Navarro after she shocked Venus Williams in the quarterfinals, then dispatched world number nine Andrea Petkovic to advance to the biggest final of her career, at one of only four mandatory premier tournaments.

The 26 year old expressed “ I came into the final with the firm belief that she could win.. . It was difficult to compete with her, I tried to be solid, however, with her strength it proved to be impossible.”

Still, Suarez Navarro affirms that “Serena is not unbeatable, she has more experience and success. People are aware that she beatable. But you have to play at a high level. My plan is keep believing and to work hard.”

Despite the score, Suarez Navarro attested that “ I enjoyed the tournament. it’s worth the pain, I fought till the end, you learn from these moments”. For her efforts, when the rankings are released, Suarez Navarro will be rewarded with the number 10 spot. Furthermore, she is the first Spanish female in the top ten since Conchita Martinez and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario.

Every time Serena step on the court, she climbs a new benchmark. This week, she joined the exclusive 700 wins club, only the eighth female player to reach that mark.

In 2013, she surpassed Steffi Graf‘s all time record of five trophies at the Miami Open. Following her tenth final at the Miami Open, with losses only to Venus in 1999 and Victoria Azarenka in 2009, Serena cited “it feels really good to have eight under my belt. Can’t say I thought I would win, especially at the beginning of the week. . .each one is special. Some finals are long; some finals have been shorter. At the end, each one is a lot of hard work. ”

Yet, Williams’ celebration was muted “I was so focused out there today. When you’re winning 5-Love, 40-Love, it’s not a surprise. . .you’ve kind of accepted that you’re going to win . . . It’s different if it’s 5-All or 7-5. You don’t know which way it’s going to turn.”

Serena is only the fourth WTA competitors to bank the same title at least eight times. Will she be aiming for twelve at the Miami Open? Martina Navratilova won Chicago that many times “I hope not. Because I would still be here  I would be how old? Let’s pray that I don’t get to 12.”

With her 66th career prize, Serena is one title away from knotting Billie Jean King at number six on the roll call. Serena’s goal for the clay season “ I just want to stay consistent and get a little more fit. . . you have longer matches. I’m looking forward to the challenge and looking to have fun.”

By collecting her 19th major at the Australian Open, Serena is for the sixth time in a position to pull off the calendar grand slam. Furthermore, Jennifer Capriati was the last person to hold both the French and Australian in 2001 “I don’t know if I can do it. I’ve never done it. . .I don’t think it’s necessarily tough. I just think that sometimes the tournament’s hard and you fall at the wrong time.”

For now, Serena will relish her recent triumph in Miami. Who knows one day instead of stadium court, it will be Serena Williams Stadium.

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Venus Williams Proceeds to the Quarterfinals at the Miami Open

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Venus Williams Proceeds to the Quarterfinals at the Miami Open


IMG_6949_VenusSeven time major winner Venus Williams ushered out world number four Caroline Wozniacki 6-3, 7-6 in the round of 16 at the Miami Open to punch her ticket into the quarterfinals for the first time since 2012.

The players could not maintain serve until the sixth game when Williams held for 4-3. Subsequent to a couple of long games, Wozniacki once again faltered. Venus broke to wrap up the opening set.

In the second set, Wozniacki threw the gauntlet with a break for 3-2. Although Williams found the equalizer promptly, as the serve deserted her, she was broken once more. In spite of difficulties, Wozniacki consolidated for 5-4. With the Dane serving for the set, Williams crushed a forehand up the line for triple break point. Soon, score was knotted at 5 a piece.

But, ahead 40-0, Williams had three consecutive double faults and eventually gifted another opportunity to her rival to push the match to a third set. Quickly, the American bounced back with triple break point and capitalized to bring up a tiebreaker.

With a nearly pristine performance, Williams claimed the tiebreaker 7-1. The American preserves her spotless record against Wozniacki and is now 7-0.

At age 34, no hint that she is contemplating retirement. Williams still has a passion for her profession “tennis has always been a blast…I never get bored. Tennis is not pushing paper. When you get out there you have no idea what’s going to happen. You can try to plan it the best you can, but it’s up in the air. You have to improvise every single time. You have to be very focused and disciplined. It’s all worth it when you get to the tournament, that excitement level comes up and I love it.”

Williams seized her 46th career title earlier in the year by also defeating Wozniacki in Auckland. Moreover, she advanced to the quarterfinals at a major for the first time since 2010. It’s been a long journey after her diagnosis of Sjogren syndrome “definitely a road not traveled. There is no handbook that says how to handle yourself. I’m persistent. I don’t give up and I believe in myself no matter what the odds are. I have always seen it as something to overcome and not something that could stop me.”

Williams made her debut at the Miami Open in 1997 and went on to land the title the following year, the biggest of her burgeoning career up to that point “Miami was my first big win besides the Australian Open mixed that year. So 1998 was definitely a great year. I learned a lot. Today, I played similar to young V, either knocking a winner or an error. It feels good.”

Williams had 40 winners today. With time, her game has changed “1997 I was a girl without a plan. Go out and swing. There’s a certain freedom to that, but there is also costly mistakes. At this stage, it’s about finding that happy medium, playing the percentage, being smart, using your experience, but at the same time continuing to be aggressive.”

With her appearance this season, Serena ended her boycott of Indian Wells. Is Venus far behind? “what Serena did was just awesome for me to see as a big sister. In this instance she took the role of big sister. We continue to protect each other no matter what. Next year is an Olympic year, it would be awesome to return, but I don’t know my schedule.”

Williams will clash with Carla Suarez Navarro in the subsequent match. The Spaniard stunned 2012 champion and world number eight Agnieszka Radwanska 5-7, 6-0, 6-4 to book her first quarterfinal appearance in Miami. Unlike today’s opponent, Suarez Navarro has 2-2 record against the American. Williams knows the match will be a battle “she plays a good mix of defense and offense. I just have to go out there and try to make my shot and use my power. Go for it.”

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Verdasco Scuttles Nadal at the Miami Open

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Verdasco Scuttles Nadal at the Miami Open


IMG_0939_NadalRafael Nadal’s bid for a Miami Open trophy was halted by compatriot Fernando Verdasco today. The former world number seven stunned the second seed 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 to claim a slot in the fourth round.

Ironically, Verdasco’s ultimate victory over a top three opponents was over Nadal at the Madrid Masters in 2012. In fact, it represented his first win over his countryman in fourteen attempts. A two time quarterfinalist in Miami, currently ranked 34th, Verdasco entered this event with a 8-6 record.

After letting his chance evaporate at 5-3 to seal the initial set, Verdasco broke Nadal for the second straight game to get the job done.

In the second set, Nadal broke and consolidated for a 4-2 edge. With a second break to carry the set, momentum seemed to have shifted to Nadal’s corner.

Considering the past, it would have been expected normal for doubts to creep into Verdasco’s psyche. Instead, the 2009 Australian Open semifinalist stayed hopeful in the deciding set. After dismissing a couple of break points, with a spectacular inside out crosscourt forehand winner, Verdasco converted on his break point opportunity then pushed his lead to 4-1.

After he failed on his maiden match point in the eighth game, it appears that Verdasco could crumble. Instead, it was the mental stalwart Nadal who misfired on a return at match point number to push his compatriot into the next round.

Nadal summed up what went wrong “I played some good games at the beginning; some good games on the second; not bad at the beginning of the third. But he played well the third, so he deserved to win more than me.”

According to Nadal, his issues go beyond just this match “It’s not the question of tennis. [it’s a] question of being relaxed enough to play well on court. My game in general improved from a month and a half. But at the same time, [I’m] still playing with too much nerves in important moments. Something that didn’t happen a lot during my career. I have been able to control my emotions during, 90%, 95% of my matches of my career, something that today is tougher. But I gonna fix it. I don’t know if in one week, in six months, or in one year, but I gonna do it.”

The world number three is adamant that his “nerve” difficulty is not the result of last year’s medical challenges “the physical problems are past. [I’m] feeling much more comfortable in my tennis, practicing well. But still playing on competition feeling more tired than usual, feeling that I don’t have self-confidence that when I hit the ball, I’m gonna hit the ball where I want to hit the ball. All these are small things that are difficult to explain.”

Hard to picture Nadal as a player struggling with nerves and self-control. Yet, he emphasizes although he has experienced it before but “very small for one point, two points. I’m able to say. Okay, I am here. But now, 3 all break point, more or less easy forehand. That was a very important point for me, but shouldn’t be. I lost that point and then affects the next game. I had the break back, 30-love, I miss a forehand, that created doubts again. I have been able to change a lot of negative situations in my career, I am confident that I can do it. I don’t know if I gonna do it, but I hope I can.”

Nadal is not a believer in couch therapy “tennis is not a big deal. Outside of the tennis world when you have some problems in your life, it is good help that you visit a professional who can improve your quality of life. [Tennis] is sport, is game. It is something I need to fix for myself and with my team. Hopefully, the clay helps.”

For his part, Verdasco never doubted even when forced to a decisive set “I was trying to think about how I played the first set and tried to get back that feeling. I tried to keep calm and be aggressive. At same time, cannot be very aggressive, very windy and many times you need to adjust.”

Undisputedly, a colossal win “beating a player like Rafa is the same like you beat [Andy] Murray or [Roger] Federer. It’s always a nice to feel a huge victory in a packed stadium in a very important tournament. Today was a good day. Now I need to try to rest and be ready for the next one.”

With reference to sensing a ‘less confident’, Verdasco replied “we played each other many times and everything happened. Since last time I beat him in Madrid, it was 13 times in a row for him. Some very easy some of them for me having match points. Every match is different. Today I adapted better than him. Normally, he is one of the best with this kind of wind. I’m not inside of him, so he is the one who needs to say about his feelings, not me. What I saw is that he was missing more than normal.”

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Dimitrov Destroys Pospisil to Advance at the Miami Open, Tsonga and Isner Advance

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Dimitrov Destroys Pospisil to Advance at the Miami Open, Tsonga and Isner Advance


Tennis - 2015 ATP World Tour 1000 - Miami Open - Key Biscayne, USA - Day 6 - Saturday 28 March 2015One of the star matches on Stadium Court at the Miami Open featured 2014 Wimbledon semifinalist Grigor Dimitrov against promising prospect, Vasek Pospisil. For the Canadian who ousted Juan Martin Del Potro in the first round, it was a miserable day at the office. Dimitrov required only 59 minutes to dismantle his opponent 6-2, 6-2.

The ninth seed came out of the block blazing converting on double break point in the opening game. Dimitrov went on to cash in on another break point in the fifth game to take a 4-1 lead. The Bulgarian closed out the first set with ease with a love hold.

Unfortunately for Popisil, the second set offered more of the same. Leveled at 2 all, the Canadian surrendered his serve by double faulting. After Dimitrov consolidated, Pospisil dropped serve his next game. Without fanfare, Dimitrov sealed the match on his first match point.

In the third round, Dimitrov will battle John Isner. The American had a comfortable 6-3,6-4 victory against reigning junior world number one, 17 year old Andrey Rublev.

Earlier in the afternoon, in a hold over from last evening rained out session, the affable Frenchman Jo-Wilfreid Tsonga tussled with American Tim Smyczek for a spot in the third round. The 2008 Australian Open finalist who was on forced sabbatical due to an arm injury held off Smyczek 6-4,3-6,6-3.

Tsonga was satisfied with his performance considering this was his first match in few months “I didn’t expect to play my best tennis today ever. I’m happy the way I managed. . .I played pretty solid. I just had a little hole in the second set, it’s normal when you haven’t played since couple of months”.

Regarding the injury itself, Tsonga reflected “my arm is feeling better today. I hope it’s going to be better and better, but for first match was already something good for me.”

Next for the world number eleven is compatriot Gael Monfils who skipped Indian Wells this year due to a knee issue. Monfils dug deep against Filip Krajinovic in the tiebreaker after wasting a few match points to win 3-6,6-2,7-6.

On Grandstand court, 2014 U.S. Open finalist Kei Nishikori routed Mikail Youzhny 6-2, 6-1. Fifth seed Milos Raonic and 2013 Miami finalist David Ferrer also crushed their opponents to book their safe passage into the third round. Other winners today include young American Jack Sock, Juan Monaco, Belge David Goffin who schooled 18 year old talent Borna Coric and Fernando Verdasco.

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Nadal Axes Almagro at the Miami Open, Murray Also Moves on

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Nadal Axes Almagro at the Miami Open, Murray Also Moves on


IMG_3458_NadalThe twelfth contest between fellow Spaniards Rafael Nadal and Nicolas Almagro went the way many of the others have gone. Nadal posted a 6-4, 6-2 victory to advance to the third round at the Miami Open.

Almagro came in with a ray of hope after banking his maiden victory over the world number 3 last year in Barcelona. Today was the competitors’ third meeting on hardcourt and Almagro’s triumph materialized on clay a surface he excels at. Moreover, the latter’s 2014 season was marred by a foot injury requiring surgery. Almagro began 2015 on the right foot with a successful South American swing which culminated with a semifinal appearance in Buenos Aires.

Nadal hasn’t been sizzling on any surface of late. His 46th clay court prize in Buenos Aires a few weeks ago was his first since the 2014 French Open. The world number three’s best on hardcourt in 2015 has been quarterfinals at Indian Wells and Australian Open. Consequently, Almagro came in with a ray of hope.

With a flubbed forehand volley by Almagro, Nadal converted on break point in the initial set for 2-1. The 14 time major winner stared down three break points on his serve before securing the set.

In the second set, Almagro dumped a forehand into the net on double break point to place his opponent in the lead at 2-1. Shortly thereafter, Nadal bolstered his edge with a love hold. Later on, with a forehand winner, Nadal cushioned his position with an additional break for 4-1. At that stage, it was clear that Almagro would have to wait another day for the hope of a second victory over his compatriot.

In analyzing his performance, Nadal believes “I played a solid match. . .I had to put the balls in and play with no mistakes today with very tough conditions. . .my forehand worked well. . .I’m happy, Almagro was not an easy opponent for the first round”.

Nadal was disappointed with some aspects of his game with his loss at Indian Wells. Today, he was determined to “play with no mistakes on the important points. . .last week, I had a lot of opportunities in the quarterfinals. . . I didn’t have a lot of mistakes, he played well. But I lost the opportunities to convert. It’s important to change the dynamic of these things quick. Doing it in this match is important for me”

Commenting on the deluge which followed a few minutes after he was done, “sure important to finish the match before the storm arrived. . .But that can happen here in Miami. It’s nothing new”.

Four times the groomsman, never the groom, the Miami Open has been less kind to Nadal than Indian Wells, he possesses three of those trophies “it is true that Indian Wells has been a tournament that has worked better historically for my game. . .the bounces are higher. . .I like playing in [Miami]. . .some days can be very humid and hard for the body. But in general, they are the conditions I like to play tennis. . .Sea level, hot, no problem, I like to play tennis”.

With the weather delay, Nadal’s third round counterpart has yet to be established. It will be either countryman Fernando Verdasco against whom he has 13-1 mark or 23 year old Australian James Duckworth ranked 97th in a first meeting

Earlier in the day, two time Miami Open champion Andy Murray disposed of Donald Young in two sets 6-4, 6-2. Murray improves his record against the American to 5-1. After surrendering the opening set in a tiebreaker, world number eight, Stanislas Wawrinka knocked out Carlos Berlocq.

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Azarenka Powers into the Second Round at the Miami Open

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Azarenka Powers into the Second Round at the Miami Open


IMG_3100_AzarenkaVictoria Azarenka, the 2008 and 2011 victor at the Miami Open, booked her spot into the next round with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Spaniard Silvia Soler-Espinosa.

After a routine first set, the former world number one went down an early break. Down 1-3, Azarenka captured the next five games for the straight sets triumph.

For Azarenka, it’s a year of rebuilding after being sidelined by injury for most of 2014. As a result, the two time Australian Open champion and twice runner-up at the U.S. Open, has seen her ranking dip and is now at 49.

In evaluating her play today, Azarenka expressed, “I think it was a pretty good first set. . .second set there was too many mistakes in the beginning. . . I lost my momentum, and she led the way a little bit. But I’m glad I could turn it around and play well when I needed to. But I just would like to see a little bit more consistency from my game.”

The Belarusian realizes that there is plenty of work that will be required if she hopes to regain her usual form after her forced hiatus. Azarenka believes what is lacking “it’s just the match play. . . You can practice for as long as possible, but really to have that moment where you play, where, you know, you sometimes get nervous, you know, it doesn’t only depend on you. It also a little bit on your opponent. So all that is the more, the more match play.”

Once one has been to the mountain top, it’s hard to accept anything less than being top dog. Azarenka stated “I’m trying to be at No. 1. I don’t want to settle for anything else. It’s going to be a long road. I think patience is probably the most frustrating thing. I know the level I play at. I just need to make sure I can do that every single match and build my match endurance, my match confidence back up there. But I feel that my level is getting better and better”.

Azarenka is thrilled to return to Miami where in 2008 as a nineteen year old she lifted the trophy by beating Serena Williams. “I love this tournament. . .the field is very strong all the time for me. I’m just happy to play anywhere I can. Obviously coming back to a place where I have a lot of great memories, it’s always nice. . .it was my first big win here, and actually first win over Serena. It took me a while to get another one after that. . .That whole year was really my first big, consistent year on a high level. So I think I left a pretty good mark winning here.”

Next up for Azarenka is Jelena Jankovic, the 2015 finalist at Indian Wells. The two have not tussled since January 2014. Azarenka has vanquished the Serb six out of ten times. “It [will be] a tough match. Being an unseeded player, I’m going to have really difficult first couple of rounds. I’m looking forward to that. I just need to keep working on my game and trying to do my best every match. Jelena had such a great week in the past, so she’s playing with a lot of confidence. She’s always a dangerous player, so I just need to focus on myself and try to play my best.”

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Murray Finally Snares Elusive Wimbledon Trophy

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Murray Finally Snares Elusive Wimbledon Trophy


Image ©CameraSport

Image ©CameraSport

For over seven decades, since 1936 to be precise, Great Britain has been restless for a homegrown male victor at the All-England Club. Today, it got to uncork that seventy-seven year old bottle of bubbly as Andy Murray held off Novak Djokovic 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 to claim his initial Wimbledon title and his second career major.

Last season after the disappointment of losing in the Wimbledon final, Murray bested Djokovic in the semifinals and Roger Federer in the next round to earn Olympic Gold in London a few months later. That feat along with having a major under his belt, the 2012 U.S. Open, were undoubtedly confidence boosters as Murray sauntered on the court to compete.

With Rafael Nadal and Federer knocked out in the first and second round respectively, Murray was expected to walk into the final. However, in the quarterfinals, the Brit had to overcome a 2 sets to none deficit against Fernando Verdasco. Also, in the semifinals, Murray surrendered the first set before ultimately taking control against newcomer Jerzy Janowicz.

Subsequent to beating all comers in straight sets, Djokovic needed five against an injured Juan Martin Del Potro who kept coming back from the brink in the longest semifinal in the tournament’s existence 4 hours and 43 minutes.

When Djokovic and Murray collided in the 2013 Australian Open final, Murray never broke despite a myriad of chances. So, when triple break point for Murray came and went in the opening game, the nail biting began for the spectators.

Later, with a forehand up the line volley winner, Murray had his seventh break point of the initial set. He converted with a backhand down the line winner. However, the public’s joy was ephemeral. Because of a slew of miscues, Murray dropped the next game at love and the set was leveled at 2 all.

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Serena Williams Dispatches Morita for a Fourth Round Berth at Sony Open

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Serena Williams Dispatches Morita for a Fourth Round Berth at Sony Open


IMG_1722_Serena
Despite being tested, five time Sony Open champion Serena Williams posted a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Japan’s Ayumi Morita in the third round in Miami.

This was the second career meeting between these ladies. Earlier this year, in Australia, the two clashed in the third round with Williams comfortably prevailing 6-1, 6-3.

Double faults were Williams undoing her initial service game resulting in the donation of a break. Morita went on to consolidate for 3-0. Soon though, the world number one found her game and rolled off six games in a row to capture the opening set.

The second set, Morita ultimately found a bandage to stop the hemorrhage and terminated Williams’ run at seven consecutive games.

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Djokovic Captures Historic Third Successive Australian Open Title

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Djokovic Captures Historic Third Successive Australian Open Title



Novak Djokovic defeated Andy Murray 6-7, 7-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the final of the Australian Open to become the first player in the Open Era to hoist that trophy three years in a row.

With extensive baseline rallies, a well contested opening set left Djokovic with a sour taste after he failed to capitalize on four break points in the sixth game and another in the eighth. Ultimately, the set was settled by a tiebreaker.

As a result of a double fault, Djokovic spotted his opponent a 1-0 advantage. From there, Murray took full advantage and ran away with the tiebreaker 7-2.

Subsequent to a love hold, Murray had triple break point courtesy of a litany of miscues by Djokovic, By reverting to his defensive style, Murray wasted those opportunities which allowed Djokovic to guard serve for 1 all.

As the second set progressed, each player dug in and protected serve quite comfortably. Again, a tiebreaker was needed to decide the set’s winner.

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Serena Williams Wards Off Azarenka for a Fourth U.S. Open Title

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Serena Williams Wards Off Azarenka for a Fourth U.S. Open Title



In the final at the U.S. Open, Serena Williams held off world number one Victoria Azarenka 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 to grab her fourth U.S. Open trophy and her 15th career major
.

With singles and doubles prizes at both Wimbledon and the Olympics, it has been a dream summer for Williams. Moreover, she’s demolished the field to reach the final this fortnight.

Azarenka had the harder road in booking her maiden appearance in the final in New York. The Belarusian fought past defending champion Stosur in the quarterfinals and survived another three setter in the semifinals against Maria Sharapova.

After closing out the opening game with an ace, Williams manufactured love-40. Even though Azarenka managed to get to deuce, Serena arrived at a fifth break point with a backhand lob winner.

When Azarenka’s backhand sailed long, Williams captured the break. Soon, with another quick game, Williams consolidated for 3-0.

Surrendering only six points on her serve, at 5-2, Williams broke Azarenka at love to bed the first set in 34 minutes.

Williams and Azarenka clashed on ten prior occasions, with the former winning nine of those encounters. Consequently, it seemed like 2008, Williams would cruise to the title without dropping a set. But, Azarenka demonstrated why she is the reigning Australian Open champion.

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