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“It’s too painful for me.” The Belarusian suffered a heartbreaking defeat in the 2012 US Open final

Date: May 19, 2024 Time: 13:36:47

Victoria Azarenka and Arina Sabalenka are the best tennis players in modern Belarusian history. They both won Grand Slam tournaments. Azarenka won the Australian Open twice (2012, 2013), Sabalenka won the title there in 2023. In other majors, the Belarusians did not lift the cup over their heads, although Victoria came very close to doing so at the US Open.

Azarenka reached the final three times (2012, 2013, 2020), but invariably lost to Serena Williams (in the first two cases) and Naomi Osaka. Especially offensive was the defeat in 2012, when Victoria, with the status of the first racket in the world, lost to Serena in a dramatic final.

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The top 10 seeds at the 2012 US Open were: Victoria Azarenka, Agnieszka Radwanska, Serena Williams, Petra Kvitova, Angelique Kerber, Samantha Stosur, Caroline Wozniacki, Li Na, Sara Errani. Serena only took fourth place in the ranking, but she was considered the main favorite along with Azarenka. Williams’ low position is explained by the sensational elimination in the first round of Roland Garros 2012 of the number 111 racket in the world, the Italian Virginie Razzano. Then Serena redeemed herself at Wimbledon and won it. But this was not enough. The American was expected to win the title at home in New York.

Serena Williams at the US Open – 2012

Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images

As a result, it was Williams and Azarenka who formed the final pair of the 2012 US Open. Serena literally destroyed all her rivals throughout the tournament, without dropping a set or even taking the matter to a tiebreaker. Among other things, the Americans defeated Ana Ivanovic (6-1, 6-3) and Sara Errani (6-1, 6-2) in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively. Azarenka also did well at the start, but she struggled in the later stages. In the quarterfinals, Victoria narrowly edged out then-reigning US Open champion Australian Samantha Stosur (6-1, 4-6, 7-6), and then scored a resounding victory over Russia’s Maria Sharapova (3- 6, 6:2, 6:4).

In the US Open final, viewers were treated to the eleventh personal meeting between Williams and Azarenka. The American led the match with a score of 9-1, who had not lost a match in the last five matches against the Belarusian. That is, with the favorite of this couple everything was obvious. However, Azarenka had no intention of giving up and hoped to repeat the feat of Stosur, in whom almost no one believed in the 2011 US Open final with Serena.

Williams won the first set 6-2. It seemed that Azarenka was depressed by the mere sight of an awkward opponent on the court and she would not object to anything in the future. However, Victoria recovered and made Serena seriously nervous.

The second set was actually a reflection of the first. Williams started with a served serve and, midway through the game, allowed Azarenka to break again. It was as if Serena had been replaced. At the 2012 US Open she lost a set for the first time and with a wide score of 2:6.

Victoria Azarenka in the US Open final – 2012

Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Then everything became much more interesting. At the beginning of the third set, the rivals exchanged breaks and in the seventh game Williams, completely unexpectedly, lost her serve again and at some point lost 3:5. Azarenka served for the match in the tenth game, but couldn’t handle his nerves and allowed Serena to easily tie the score. Now Williams looked like the clear favorite to close out the match in her favour. And the American did not flinch. Serena took the next two games. The first with a score of 40:15 with her own serve, and the second with someone else’s from the first break point in the “over-under”. The final score of the match was 6:2, 2:6, 7:5 in favor of Williams.

It may seem strange, but the 2012 US Open final between Williams and Azarenka was the most dramatic since 1995. Steffi Graf then beat Monica Seles (7-6, 0-6, 6-3) in three sets. Since then, in the decisive matches, viewers have always watched only two matches before the battle between Serena and Victoria. Since the early 21st century, the women’s singles finals have been so one-sided that there hasn’t even been a tiebreaker.

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Azarenka missed the chance to win a second Slam in the 2012 season, but Williams did. In addition, the American won gold medals at the London Olympics. Serena became the third tennis player in history to win Wimbledon, the Olympic Games and the US Open in the same season. Until now, only Steffi Graf and her older sister, Venus Williams, could do it.

“I never give up. I came back to the game many times in many matches. I was not very nervous. Now I am very motivated, very focused. Ready for the next tournament. I really want to perform well. I will think about my tennis legacy when I finish my career. And “Now I want to create much more for history. After losing in the first round in Paris, I was in a terrible state. I had never felt so devastated. But I was able to pull myself together. They say that sometimes it is good to lose,” Serena shared her emotions after the triumph.

Victoria Azarenka and Serena Williams after the US Open final – 2012

Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images

Azarenka admitted that another loss to Williams was very painful for her, but congratulated her opponent on a well-deserved victory.

“The match turned out great. Of course, it hurts a lot: I was very close to winning, but I lost. But I don’t regret anything. I did everything I could. Could the match have ended differently? Maybe. But it ended the way it ended. And I’m very upset. But the negativity will go away and I will understand what really happened. It was a great game, very close, but I lost. Of course, the final is a great achievement. But now I’m very sad, so it’s hard for me to realize. Yes, I’m proud of myself, but I’m sad. In a couple of days I will be more than satisfied with last summer. I think it’s good to be a US Open finalist. The ending was very tense. Sometimes it seemed to me that I had no right to be wrong, to make the wrong decision. The tension was so strong that you had to understand with absolute clarity what you were doing. I needed self-confidence and self-assurance. And I had it all. But Serena shot very low over the net.

Matches like this make me work, improve, keep going. I should be grateful to Serena. She is the same person as everyone else: two legs, two arms. And in the second set I created opportunities for myself. Serena doesn’t just make mistakes like that. I caused her mistakes. For me she is the best tennis player in history. Serena took the game to the next level. She forces me to constantly improve in terms of the game, mental and physical aspects. Now there are several such players on the women’s circuit, and this situation is difficult to overestimate. People like María, like Petra, make me a better person. Serena and I never had any problems. I admire her as a person and as a player. I sincerely admire her and congratulate her from the bottom of my heart because she deserved to win. She was stronger,” Azarenka said.

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A year later, Azarenka and Williams met again in the US Open final. The relationship was resolved again in three games: Serena won 7:5, 6:7, 6:1. Victoria missed another chance to finally conquer New York in 2020. She once again lost in three sets to Naomi Osaka (6-1, 3-6, 3-6). Azarenka is already 34 years old, so it is unlikely that she will win the US Open again or play the final there.

But Aryna Sabalenka can rewrite the history of Belarusian tennis and finally win the “Slam” for her country in the United States. For this, it is necessary to beat the local tennis player Cori Gauff, 19 years old, in the next final. Gauff has the support of the crowd, but Sabalenka, 25, has more experience. Corey is not Serena at the peak of her career, so it will be much easier for Arina, compared to Azarenka, to win the US Open final on her first try.

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Puck Henry
Puck Henry
Puck Henry is an editor for ePrimefeed covering all types of news.

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