As for me, I’m just still buzzing from that second set. What fight from both. What rallies. What grit. Sure, both struggled with the wind–understandably so–and Serena really got tight in the second half of the second set, but that was far from solely being a choke. Azarenka stepped up, and proved why she is going to win many more Grand Slams.
I must say, that as the crowd was cheering and the internet was buzzing and match was taken to a third set, I got chills. What a perfect ode to Billie Jean King and the 40th anniversary of the WTA and the US Open giving equal prize money.
2. This was Serena’s moment today, as she won major no. 17, but I don’t think it can be overstated what a statement Azarenka made today too.
Because of how good Serena is, people are always hesitant to consider anyone her true rival, especially in today’s WTA. It’s certainly not Maria, who matches up horribly against her, and players like Li Na who can play her closely are not nearly consistent enough to count. As much as the U.S. press would like for Sloane to be a rival, I think we still have to wait and see on that one.
But Azarenka? That’s a rival. Their last four matches on hard courts have all gone the distance, and they’ve split them both. The only problem for Azarenka is that her two losses have both come in U.S. Open finals. But her absolute refusal to go down without a fight, her ability to find the corners of the court, and her commitment to finding the net under pressure situations today might have been her most impressive performance against Serena yet.
Her depth and consistency always rattle Serena. She will end up on top of one of these match-ups at a major, and I think it will be sooner rather than later. She is on a mission, and you can tell that she’s not content just getting close.
She’s really coming into her own on and off the court, and people are really appreciating. It’s nice to say.
3. That being said, can we just stand here in awe of Serena Williams for a minute? I mean, ohmygod is she great at tennis. It’s pretty amazing to think that she is almost 32 and slowing absolutely zero signs of slowing down. How lucky are we that she has found this late-career dedication and determination?
To think that she’s won four majors in the last 14 months, and she looks to have at least two years of tennis left in her, and she’s only five majors away from catching Steffi. Suddenly, it doesn’t seem THAT crazy to think of her getting there. Obviously it’s still a long way off, and anything can happen, but when we remember the sentiment after her first-round loss at the French Open last year, when she was stuck at No. 13 for almost two year–well, we’ve come a long way, baby.
She calmed herself down despite the wind and the nerves and the pressure and the overall DRAMA that is the mind and body of Serena Williams. She had to earn it, because Azarenka was not going to give it to her. And on the stage of her biggest meltdowns, she steered herself back in the right direction.
To quote Serena: “COME ON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
4. Here are some of my favorite quotes from their pressers:
Q. You had fun talking about your X Factor in a joking way the other day. On a serious note, what is Serena Williams’ X Factor? Can you put into words what makes her so special as a champion?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Well, there’s one word. She’s a champion, and she knows how to repeat that. She knows what it takes to get there. I know that feeling, too. And when two people who want that feeling so bad meet, it’s like a clash. That’s what happens out there, those battles. And in the important moments is who is more brave, who is more consistent, or who takes more risk. And with somebody like Serena you got to take risk. You can never play safe, because she will do that. She did that today really well.
Q. Who is going to win the men’s final?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Who’s gonna win? I don’t know. Who I want to win? You know, Rafa convinced me, you know, to vote to just, you know, how do you say? Support him. Support him (laughter). Okay.
Q. How did he convince you?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: How? He was practicing with his shirt off (laughter). (Applause.)
Q. You have been so dominant this year. Did you feel like you kind of needed a second Grand Slam title?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Absolutely. Absolutely. I felt almost disappointed with my year, to be honest. I felt like, yeah, I won the French Open, but I wasn’t happy with my performances in the other two slams, and, you know, not even making it to the quarterfinals of one. So I definitely feel a lot better with at least a second Grand Slam under my belt this year.
Q. Going back to 1999, hypothetical question: If a 17 year old Serena Williams played a 31 year old Serena Williams, who would win it and why?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I don’t know. I have been looking at film when I was 17. I remember I played Steffi Graf in Indian Wells, and, gosh, I was good (laughter). I was really I had no idea. I came to the net, and I’m like, Me? I had volleys. I was like, I hit volleys? Yeah, so, I mean, I don’t know. Both of us are fighters. We both never give up. So it would be interesting to see.
Q. When you’re presented with the types of checks that you were tonight, what sense do you have of how much money you have earned in your career and what meaning does it have for you?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I never, never, in my life have picked up a check. I don’t play tennis for the money. I honestly love to play. I love Grand Slams. When I grew up playing tennis in Compton, I just never thought about any of this. I didn’t think about the press. I didn’t think about I didn’t even know all this came with everything. I think my dad got me into tennis because of the money, but me being naive and silly, I never thought about it. I just thought, I want to win. I wanted to do what Venus does. I want to win and I want to do more and I want to do more. To this day I have never ever picked up a check in my life. I remember back in the day before wiring they used to mail it because I just would forget it. So, yeah, I didn’t pick it up tonight. I’m just really more happy about the opportunity that I had because of my sister, because of Billie Jean King, because of so many pioneers to have an opportunity to win some money like this. But for me, I play for the love of tennis.
Q. Do you have a sense of what your career earnings are?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, someone told me today I passed 50, but half of that goes to my Uncle Sam (laughter). I love him. I’m always giving him half my money.
5. A few of my favorite tweets:
Serena Williams in 2013 – WWWWWWWWWLWWWWLWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWLWWWWWWWWWWWWWWLWWWWWWW. Code violation: season abuse.
— Álvaro Rama (@alvarorama) September 8, 2013
$3.6 million in prize money for Serena Williams. "You've come a long way baby," indeed. #usopen
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) September 8, 2013
Y'all. We get to watch Serena in real time. We don't deserve this.
— Rembert Browne (@rembert) September 8, 2013
Everybody trying to shake Serena's hand, even ex-Prezes (GETTY) pic.twitter.com/UUaQkC5ech
— Joe Fleming (@ByJoeFleming) September 9, 2013
Serena has won more in 2013 than any active American male (singles) player has earned in their career.
— Lindsay Gibbs (@linzsports) September 8, 2013
(YES, I included my own. But come on–that’s an insane stat.)
Phew. That was fun. Okay, guys. Show us what you’ve got.