Victoria Azarenka hailed Serena Williams as the greatest player of all time on Sunday and vowed to learn from suffering a chastening 10th defeat in 11 meetings with the American veteran in the US Open final.
Williams captured a fourth title in New York on Sunday to take her career majors total to 15 with a 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 victory, the first women’s final to go the distance in 17 years.
World number one Azarenka was outplayed in the first set before staging a rousing fightback which saw her serve for the match at 5-4 in the decider before Williams called upon all of her experience and shot-making prowess to pull through.
‘Serena is a champion’
“For me, she’s the greatest player of all time. She has taken the game to the next level. She’s a great champion,” said 23-year-old Azarenka, who was just 10 when Williams won her first US Open as a teenager in 1999.
“But I have to be positive because I feel like these kind of matches, every time I play Serena, it really pushes me to be better, to improve, to move forward. I have to be thankful to her for that.”
Azarenka has only beaten Williams once — in the 2009 Miami final — with seven of her defeats coming in the majors.
Sunday’s match represented her fourth loss to Williams in 2012 alone.
“She makes me all the time make sure that I’m taking my game, my personality, my physical aspect to the next level,” said Azarenka.
“Having few of the players like that in the women’s tour is something priceless, something that you cannot take away. It’s the people who like Maria (Sharapova), like Petra (Kvitova) those kind of girls, they always push me to be better. Today (Sunday) I was close. I’m going to have another opportunity to make something better. That’s what I’m looking for.”