US Open 2012: Serena Williams caps off great summer with title

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NEW YORK — Serena Williams wrapped up her remarkable summer with the latest rendition of a scene that has become familiar the past few months.

Williams jumping up and down on the tennis court with a mile-wide smile across her face.

Williams picking up a big-time prize — this time, the U.S. Open trophy, which will look good somewhere near the gold medals she won at the Olympics and the silver plate she took home from Wimbledon.

If there was anything unexpected about her latest triumph, it was the challenge she faced from Victoria Azarenka, especially considering the way Williams dominated everyone she faced on the way to Sunday’s final, to say nothing of the way the final started.

Come the third set, with the sun going down and the stadium completely blanketed in shadows, Williams stood only two points away from a loss. She rediscovered her form in time, took the last four games of the match and won her fourth title at Flushing Meadows and 15th Grand Slam title overall with a 2-6, 6-2, 7-5 victory. It was the first women’s U.S. Open final to go three sets since 1995.

“If it was anybody other than Serena on the other side of the court, I’m not sure we’d be talking now,” said Patrick Mouratoglou, a coach who has been working with Williams recently. “But it was Serena. She was there. She’s a winner and she’s a champion.”

Mouratoglou helped Williams engineer a restoration that began shortly after she lost in the first round of the French Open in May, the only opening-round exit of her 49 career Grand Slam appearances.

“She said, ‘I want to win Wimbledon, I want to start now,’” Mouratoglou said. “That’s simple. That’s how it started.”

Since then, Williams won both singles and doubles at Wimbledon, then matched that feat a month later at the London Olympics.

The U.S. Open was the clincher — a two-week clinic during which she lost only 19 games over her first six matches, then put on a display in how to play pressure tennis when the stakes were the highest. Trailing 5-3 and serving at 30-all against Azarenka, the Australian Open champion seeded first in this tournament, Williams wrested back control of the match by winning 10 of the next 12 points.

“Obviously, I never give up,” Williams said. “I never, never quit. I’ve come back so many times in so many matches. I wasn’t too nervous.”

Indeed, for a woman who has had her share of flare-ups here in recent years, Williams barely showed a trace of emotion when this match was at its diciest. There was the smallest of hesitations for a second look after a serve was called out at 3-5, 30-15. And, when she closed out that game three points later, she did the quickest of skips — a nearly imperceptible celebration before a calm walk to the chair to get ready for the service break she had to have.

She got it, then held serve, and then twice held off Azarenka when she was one point from forcing a third-set tiebreaker. The first save came on a backhand winner, one of 44 winners Williams hit to only 13 for her counterpunching, but less powerful, opponent.

“Feels like there is no room for a mistake,” Azarenka said in describing what it’s like dealing with Williams‘ game. “There is no room for a wrong decision.”

Williams hasn’t always played the role of cool customer in the crucible of Arthur Ashe Stadium.

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