- Last Updated: 10:44 AM, September 10, 2012
- Posted: 12:46 AM, September 10, 2012
She was in tears after the match, the emotions of her gut-wrenching three-set loss in the women’s final of the U.S. Open flooding from her eyes.
“Being so close it hurts deeply to know that you don’t have it,” Victoria Azarenka said. “You’re so close, but you didn’t get it.”
After losing to Serena Williams 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 yesterday at Arthur Ashe Stadium, Azarenka couldn’t be blamed if she wished Williams had picked another era to dominate. Azarenka has now lost to the four-time U.S. Open champion in 10 of their 11 career meetings, including nine straight and counting.
But Azarenka, the tournament’s top-seed and the world’s No. 1-ranked player, considers it a blessing to test herself against Williams. What she went through yesterday was another learning experience that should make her a better player in the future.
“Every time I play Serena it really pushes me to be better, to improve, to move forward,” Azarenka said, “I have to be thankful to her for that.”
It didn’t take long for Azarenka to find perspective in her defeat yesterday. At Wimbledon, she lost to Williams 6-3, 7-6 (6) in the semifinals. At the Olympics, Williams beat her again 6-1, 6-2. Azarenka wasn’t expected to put up much of fight yesterday and the outcome looked like a foregone conclusion when Williams dominated the first set.
But just when the coronation was about to begin, Azarenka made a match of it, forcing the women’s final to a third set for the first time in 17 years.
She was up 5-3 in the third set, but then Williams showed her experience and her talent and won her fourth straight U.S. Open, leaving Azarenka to figure out what went wrong.
“I felt like there was just too many one- or two-shot rallies that didn’t allow me to grind it the way I like it and not really make me feel in control at that particular moment,” she said, adding, “Serena produced some amazing tennis. I feel like I could have done a little bit better. But there was nothing that I did wrong.”
At 23, Azarenka has plenty of time to get back to this stage. She is enjoying her best season as a professional. She won the Australian Open early this year becoming the first Belarusian player to win a Grand Slam in singles. A bronze medal at the Olympics is also in the trophy case, now she has experienced her first final at a U.S. Open.
“I feel like I’m in a place that I belong,” she said. “It’s something that you will never be able to describe with words, that feeling you get, that energy, that something special with all eyes on you.”
To experience that feeling again, she knows she has to improve a service game that failed to produce an ace yesterday compared to 13 for Williams. She also said she needs to get mentally and physically stronger. Fortunately or unfortunately, she has Williams as an example to follow.Follow @NYPostsports