WTA Best Matches of 2013: 3. Azarenka d. Serena (Doha)

Azarenka d. S.Williams, 7-6(6) 2-6 6-3 (Doha, F)

Doha has never been a tournament that particularly captured my imagination and particularly after their three years hosting the WTA year-ending-championships in front of sparse and non-existent crowds.  However it really shone this year with the big names all competing and reaching the latter stages.  Along with the Serena-Kvitova quarter-final, the final in Doha between Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka was a thoroughly engaging match.  Perhaps many will wonder why this match is higher than the Kvitova match.  When I think of all the matches I watched in 2013, this one immediately springs to mind.  I remember when I watched this match for the first time that I was ill and had terrible earache.  I didn’t move throughout the whole match, which is rare for me because I have a short attention span and often go wandering in between sets! I definitely credit this match in making me ignore the fact I wanted to chop my ear off.

The first set was a little scrappy, but intriguing nonetheless and you could see that if both players, particularly Serena, could string something together, then it was going to be worth sticking around for.  Serena, who had not been playing at her best all week, came out playing poorly.  She forfeited an early break with some woeful serving and made a load of errors as Azarenka took advantage.  Serena got the break back, but was still struggling for rhythm as the first set reached its crescendo in the tiebreak.  Azarenka went down set points in the tiebreak with a criminal double fault, but surprisingly, Serena was unable to convert as Azarenka, not for the first time, cranked up the pressure on her return and snatched the opening set.

The quality of the match improved dramatically in the second set as Serena finally found her best tennis.  After some lengthy deuce games, it was Serena who won the second set, 6-2.  She quickly went up 0-30 on Azarenka’s first service game of the third set and it was starting to look like curtains for Vika.  However what was to come was one of the most impressive individual performances of the year as Azarenka, who had a 1-11 record against Serena at the time, managed to hold and then get the all important break.  She blew her chance to serve for the US Open title last year, but showed incredible character to serve out this match at the first time of asking for a huge win.

I haven’t seen this match mentioned at all in reviews and perhaps it was just me who liked this match! I really enjoyed it and unsurprisingly, see a lot of life left in this Serena-Vika match-up…

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