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September 9, 2013

Williams beats Azarenka for 5th US Open, 17th Slam

NEW YORK (AP) — Serena Williams’ big lead in the U.S. Open final suddenly was gone.

Her serve was shaky. Her hard-hitting opponent, Victoria Azarenka, was presenting problems, and so was the gusting wind. A couple of foot-fault calls added to the angst.

As a jittery Williams headed to the sideline after dropping a set for the first time in the tournament, she chucked her racket, which ricocheted onto the court.

When play resumed, in the crucible of a third set, Williams put aside everything and did what she does best: She came through in the clutch to win a major match. Facing her only test of the past two weeks, the No. 1-seeded Williams overcame No. 2 Azarenka 7-5, 6-7 (6), 6-1 yesterday for her 17th Grand Slam championship.

“When you’re always trying to write history, or join history in my case, maybe you just get a little more nervous than you should. I also think it’s kind of cool, because it means that it means a lot to you. It means a lot to me, this trophy,” Williams said, pointing her right hand at her fifth silver cup from the U.S. Open, “and every single trophy that I have.”

That collection keeps growing.

Williams has won twice in a row at Flushing Meadows — beating Azarenka in three sets each time — and four of the past six major tournaments overall. Her 17 titles are the sixth-most in history for a woman, only one behind Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert, and the same total as the men’s record-holder, Roger Federer.

“It feels really good to be in that same league as him,” said Williams, who earned $3.6 million in prize money.

This one did not come easily, even though it appeared to be nearly over when Williams went ahead by two breaks at 4-1 in the second set. She served for the match at 5-4 and 6-5 — only to have the gutsy Azarenka, a two-time Australian Open winner, break each time.

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