Seeing Wozniacki’s final backhand sail long was a massive relief for Williams, who has endured a lacklustre season by her otherworldly standards. Overcome with emotion, she fell flat on her back and soaked up the applause on Arthur Ashe stadium, before arising with tears in her eyes. Her celebration told the story of a difficult year rather than a difficult match.
Following a dominant 2013, in which the younger Williams sister compiled a 78-4 win loss record, 2014 has seen Serena crash to earth spectacularly. Heading into the U.S Open Championships at Flushing Meadow she had failed to make it past the fourth round of a grand slam all season. Frustrated by her year of failure, Williams has played this tournament with frightening intensity, swatting all her opponents aside without dropping a set on her way to the final.
Although Wozniacki and Serena are close friends off the court, Williams had no time for girly giggles and gossip tonight. This was her chance to set the record straight and prove she is still the undisputed queen of women’s tennis. Following a nervy few opening games which included 4 consecutive breaks of serve, Serena edged into the lead. She then began to impose her will on Wozniacki pushing her behind the baseline and sending her scrambling across the court. The match was always going to be about Serena’s temperament and mood. If she played poorly Wozniacki could perhaps grind her down, if she played anything close to her best, she would beat her opponent into submission. It quickly became obvious this was more of a beating than a contest. Serena closed out the first set 6-3, whacking 15 winners in the process.
The second set saw more of the same; Serena stormed into the lead, securing a break of serve in the first game. Wozniacki playing in her second grand slam final (she lost at the same venue against Kim Clijsters in 2010) saved herself from a 3-0 deficit by evading two more break points in the 3rd game of the set, but this was only a temporary moment of respite. Her defensive, dogged style of play was no match for Williams’ trademark power tennis. Training for the New York marathon later this year undoubtedly helped the Dane on her way to the final, Wozniacki ran and ran in her fourth round upset of Maria Sharapova; but she couldn’t do the same tonight. Serena just didn’t give her the chance. Reaching 30-30 on the Williams serve whilst 3-4 down was the closest Wozniacki came to levelling the score in the second set. Serena averted the danger the only way she knows how to; with brute force. She slammed down a huge unreturnable serve to win one point, and followed it up with howitzer forehand to win the next point and take a 5-3 lead.
Serving to stay in the match the younger women finally coaxed Williams into one of her favoured back court exchanges, a dizzying 26 stroke rally that ended with a surprising backhand error by the 10TH seeded Dane. Serena was not going to wilt, she wanted this title, she needed this title and two points later she had it. Wozniacki missed a backhand on match point to give Williams the victory, her 18th grand slam title, tying her with tennis greats Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert for fourth on the all-time winners list. After the match an emotional Williams said “It was a really wonderful feeling. I couldn’t have finished things in a better way. It is a pleasure for me to win here”.
On the same court she claimed her first slam title at the age of 17, Williams’ return home inspired her to produce the tennis that has made her one of the greatest female tennis players of all time. This may have been Williams’ sixth title in New York, but judging by her reaction none have been any sweeter.