The ladies’ final of the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati was the night match between the world’s number 1 and number 2 players, Serena Williams (Profile) and Victoria Azarenka (Profile). Williams had never won this great tournament – one of only a very few holes in her CV – but went into this final leading the head to head against the Belarusian 14-2. Nonetheless, this marquee final was expected to be good and the fans were not disappointed, as they were treated to a rare thriller which lasted two and a half hours and went right down to the wire.
The first set was rather pedestrian and gave the spectators very little hope of a good contest. Just as in her semi against Jankovic, Azarenka’s serve went AWOL and she served two doubles in the first game to hand the lead to the American, who got another break to lead 4-1 and who went on to take the set with ease at 6-2. Azarenka turned the tables in the second set when she changed her game plan and Serena lost some focus, which resulted in the Belarusian breaking Williams three times, to take the set by the same margin as the first. The cliff hanger factor was ratcheted up in the decider, with both players bringing their best games to the court. Azarenka broke to lead 4-2 and 30-0 on her serve but, in typical fashion, the American clawed her way back to take that game and go on to lead 5-4. Azarenka then broke back and the set eventually went to a breaker, where she was the first to match point at 6-5. Williams levelled, but Azarenka held her nerve at 7-6 and took the set 8-6 when Williams netted a forehand. “It was a great match. I’m really, really pleased with the way I pulled it out. It was a great battle,” Azarenka told reported in her post match interview.