Flushing Meadows, NY – Repeat final, repeat champion.
Serena Williams slugged to a hard-fought 7-5, 6-7 (6-8), 6-1 victory over Victoria Azarenka in the final of the U.S. Open Sunday.
The top-seeded American won the Grand Slam event for a fifth time, which is tied with Margaret Court and Steffi Graf for the fourth-most all-time.
Williams, who won the French Open this year, gained her 17th Grand Slam title. That's one shy of Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova for the fourth most in history. Court is the all-time leader with 24 such championships.
The second-seeded Azarenka, who lost in three sets in the 2012 final, fell to 3-13 all-time against Williams.
Williams secured the late break to go ahead in the opening set at 6-5 when Azarenka sent a backhand into the net. Williams then polished off the set in 58 minutes when Azarenka delivered a wide forehand.
The second set saw Williams bolt to a 4-1 lead after Azarenka committed a double fault. Azarenka stormed back and leveled the set after 10 games, but a backhand into the net allowed Williams to break serve for a 6-5 edge.
Williams double-faulted to force the tiebreaker and Azarenka moved the match into a third set after Williams sent a backhand long.
"I thought I have to stay positive. It was very easy to get down," Williams said. "I didn't want to get down on myself. I wanted to be a little strict with myself so I could play better. I wanted to do different things and try to have a better performance."
But in the final set, Williams secured a service break for a 3-1 lead and then another one for a dominating advantage before Azarenka sent a backhand long to end the match.
"We gave it all this year and we showed our hearts, we gave it everything we got," Azarenka said.
Aside from winning the U.S. Open last year, Williams also titled in Flushing Meadows in 1999, 2002 and 2008. She and Azarenka have combined for sixth of the last eight Grand Slam championships.
Azarenka, who won the Australian Open this year, failed to become the first Belarusian woman to win the U.S. Open.
"There was no letdown. I think it was the moment in the third set that the momentum changed a little bit, and I kind of felt like I lost that momentum," Azarenka said.
It's the 55th career title for Williams, including nine this year. She's now 72-9 overall at the Open.
She overcame 35 unforced errors, eight more than Azarenka.
"The wind was unbelievable today. It just got worse and worse. It just never let up." Williams said. "But at this point you have to be able to play under any circumstances. It wasn't very easy. I think I made a lot of errors because of that."
The powerful American is a sizzling 67-4 overall this year. Not only did Williams win the $2.6 million first-place prize, she also claimed an additional $1 million as a result of capturing the U.S. Open Series.
"I think my dad got me into tennis because of the money, but me being naive and silly, I never thought about it," Williams said. "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."
Because she finished second in the U.S. Open Series, Azarenka gained an extra $250,000 for the runner-up placement.
"Vika is such a great opponent," Williams said. "She's such a great fighter, and that's why she's able to win multiple Grand Slams."