WTA Best Matches of 2013: 1. Serena d. Azarenka (US Open)

Serena

Serena d. Azarenka, 7-5 6-7(6) 6-1 (US Open, F)

Determining my favourite WTA match of 2013 was not clear cut this year but in the end, I have gone for the US Open final between Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka.  The  quality and intensity of the first two sets ranked significantly higher than anything else I watched on the WTA tour in 2013 and made this a worthy number one.  Heading into the final, it had been one of the most lacklustre and uneventful Grand Slams in recent memory, but the final offering with the two best players in the world offered up hope that the tournament would at least end in style.

After an early exchange of breaks it was clear that the wind was going to be a huge factor in this match.  Serena was constantly troubled by it and was seen mouthing on one changeover “I can’t play in this wind”.  Azarenka was equally unsettled, but generally dealt with the situation much better.  It was not until 4-4 in the first set when the pair started to trade hammer blows in some awesome rallies.  Vika played a magnificent game at 4-4 (see 56:02 in the first video) with an ace and two crunching forehands to hold.  There was a feeling in the air that Vika could take the set in Serena’s next service game and she came close, forcing an increasingly alarmed Serena to deuce, but the American player held on.  It was that hold that seemed to give Serena a platform to build on as she powered her way to the first set, 7-5.

The second set was probably my favourite of 2013.  Serena threatened to draw away and win this match quite comfortably, but Azarenka showed incredible tenacity to keep fighting and put question marks into Serena’s mind.  Serena led 4-1 and had 2 chances to serve for the Championship at 5-4 and 6-5, but both times, was undone by some terrific returning from Azarenka.  When I first watched this match I thought it was a complete bottle from Serena, but when I watched it back again, I realised that Azarenka played a big part in Serena’s undoing.  The whole match was intensified by the passionate and raucous crowd, which gave the umpire, Alison Hughes (formerly Lang) a tricky job to handle.  I thought it was great though because a loud crowd makes such a big difference with getting involved in a match.

The second set tiebreak saw Serena take another lead to 3-1, but Azarenka, donning some hideous sweat patches (SHAME ON YOU, NIKE) kept plugging away and eventually took it, 8 points to 6.  The whole second set tiebreak is worth another watch (from 2:09:40 in the second video) and the atmosphere was absolutely electric. It was unfortunate that the third set was a bit of a dud.  The mental and physical effort that Azarenka gave in the second set seemed to completely sap the energy from her and after another tight game at 2-1, now under the lights of Ashe, Serena secured the break and once again headed for the finish line.  This time, she completed the job to win her 5th US Open title and 17th Grand Slam title after 2 hours and 35 minutes of pulsating tennis.

It was a fantastic advertisement for womens tennis and despite Azarenka’s post-US Open slump, I think this rivalry will continue to be as compelling in 2014.  I did question whether my favourite match of the year could include a 6-1 third set, but after watching those first two sets again… Yes.  Yes it can!

I hope you enjoyed my countdown of my favourite womens matches from 2013.  I would love to hear what your favourite match of the season was in the comments section and you can also vote in the poll below.  Next I will be posting a two part series looking at my favourite mens matches from 2013 so stay tuned!

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