US Open finalist Victoria Azarenka saw off Venus Williams at the Internazionali d'Italia to book a meeting against Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin.

Azarenka, who beat Serena Williams in the Flushing Meadows semi-finals, won 7-6 (9-7) 6-2 against the American's older sister to earn an enticing meeting with Australian Open champion Kenin in the last 32.

In a battle lasting just over two hours, Azarenka had to save a set point before claiming what proved to be a pivotal tie-break, the win avenging a defeat to Venus Williams in the first round of the Top Seed Open last month.

"[A] different surface was definitely challenging, but I feel like I adapted very well," Azarenka said after winning the last of the first-round matches in Rome.

"I knew it wasn't going to be easy, I knew I wasn't going to play a perfect game, but it was all about trying to find the right intention of what to do. I think it worked out.

"I felt that this was a great match for me to figure it out, the first match on clay. Venus played a really good match, it was good to see her also adapting to clay, changing and trying different shots. 

"It is going to be an interesting match [against Kenin] because Sonya's been my doubles partner for the last two tournaments and we know each other quite well.

"She's a great player, she's obviously been playing exceptional this year. I feel like I'm playing all these players I've lost to before, so I'm kind of given an opportunity to redeem myself!"

Number one seed Simona Halep won 6-3 6-4 against Jasmine Paolini and will next face Dayana Yastremska, who emerged triumphant from a three-set battle against Amanda Anisimova.

Second seed and defending champion Karolina Pliskova beat fellow Czech Barbora Strycova 6-3 6-3, with Elina Svitolina and Elise Mertens also among those moving into the last 16.

There was no joy for sixth seed Belinda Bencic, though, as she was emphatically knocked out by qualifier Danka Kovinic, who earned a 6-3 6-1 win.

Garbine Muguruza refused to let the rain in Rome disrupt her march to victory over Sloane Stephens.

The Spaniard prevailed 6-3 6-3 in a battle between two grand slam winners to reach the second round of the Internazionali d'Italia.

But the ninth seed had to wait out a downpour she had not seen coming before she could seal the win and a meeting with Coco Gauff.

"It was unexpected, because I checked the weather and it seemed like it was okay," she said of the interruption, which delayed the start of the second set by an hour.

"But I just had to adapt. I knew I had a tough match against Sloane, she's also a great player on clay.

"I'm just happy with my performance, since this is the third match I am able to play in a long time."

There was a shock exit for three-time grand slam champion Angelique Kerber as she fell to 6-3 6-1 loss against Katerina Siniakova.

Gauff defeated Ons Jabeur 6-4 6-3 to progress, with the 16-year-old joined in the next round by 12th seed by Marketa Vondrousova following her three-set triumph over Misaki Doi.

Elsewhere in the draw, 14th seed Anett Kontaveit overcame Caroline Garcia 6-3 7-6 (7-1), while two-time slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova came from a set down to beat Bernarda Pera.

Andy Murray and Eugenie Bouchard have been handed wildcards for the singles draws at the French Open.

Former world number one Murray made his grand slam return at the US Open earlier this month, defeating Yoshihito Nishioka before losing to Felix Auger-Aliassime in straight sets.

Murray, 33, was a finalist at Roland Garros in 2016 and reached the semi-finals for four consecutive years between 2014 and 2017.

He is currently ranked 110th in the world after undergoing hip resurfacing surgery last year.

Bouchard enjoyed a restorative run to the final of the Istanbul Open last week, where the 2014 Wimbledon finalist was beaten by Patricia Maria Tig despite taking the first set.

Tsvetana Pironkova has also been awarded a spot in the women's draw after her surprise run to the US Open quarters.

Murray, Bouchard and Pironkova are the only non-French players to receive the 16 wildcards on offer across the two singles draws.

Elena Rybakina overcame jet lag to gain revenge on Ekaterina Alexandrova in the first round of the Internazionali d'Italia.

The 10th seed coasted to a 6-0 6-4 triumph in Rome despite struggling with tiredness, having only recently arrived in Italy after her second-round loss to Shelby Rogers at the US Open.

Monday's victory was particularly sweet for the Kazakh, who had already suffered two defeats to Alexandrova in 2020.

"It was not easy because I just came from America and I'm jet lagged," said Rybakina.

"I had one week to prepare on clay and it's not enough, usually it takes a longer time – but we have to adjust.

"But I'm happy to play matches, and the more I play the better for me. Every match I will find my rhythm and also move better on clay, because it's completely different [to hard courts]."

The 21-year-old was not the only seed to enjoy a straight-sets success, with US Open quarter-finalist Elise Mertens (11) defeating Hsieh Su-wei 6-3 6-1.

A couple of seeds bit the dust as Alison Riske (13) fell to a 5-7 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 loss against Aliona Bolsova, while 16th seed Donna Vekic was beaten 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (8-6) by Amanda Anisimova.

Top seed Simona Halep learned who she will face in the second round, with home hope Jasmine Paolini getting the honour after the wildcard saw off Anastasija Sevastova 6-2 6-3.

Eugenie Bouchard missed the chance to become the lowest-ranked qualifier ever to win a WTA Tour event as she went down 2-6 6-1 7-6 (7-4) to Patricia Maria Tig in the Istanbul Cup final.

Former Wimbledon finalist Bouchard endured a wretched 2019 to tumble down the rankings and, despite recent improvement, entered the tournament in Turkey as the world number 272.

After taking control of Sunday's contest at the end of a fine week, though, it appeared the Canadian would earn a second career title. Only three players have triumphed on the Tour while being ranked lower and none of those first came through qualifying.

But Tig, whose only prior WTA success came in the 125K series, belatedly applied some pressure and Bouchard collapsed, recovering to reach a third-set tie-break but coming up short.

Bouchard made an aggressive start to take the first seven points and the break quickly followed.

The 26-year-old was frustrated in her pursuit of a swift second but clinched the opener on Tig's serve when a rapid return sent the Romanian into the net.

Tig was much improved at the start of the second, however, and a gorgeous drop shot forged her first opportunity of the entire match, which she duly took.

Bouchard then lost her way as she looked set to break back, instead subsequently dropping her own serve again as she receiving a code violation for ball abuse before appearing to frustratedly gesture towards her coach.

A deserved third break settled the set and Tig soon led in the decider, too, but Bouchard battled to avoid a further setback and looked to have rediscovered her earlier poise and power as she levelled the match.

A wild backhand put Tig back in the driving seat, only for Bouchard to save three championship points on her opponent's serve, breaking back, and another three on her own.

The inconsistency that dogged Bouchard from the second set onwards would prove her undoing in the breaker, however, as Tig saw out a breakthrough triumph.

Naomi Osaka simply wanted to avoid an embarrassing loss before recovering to beat Victoria Azarenka in the US Open final.

Osaka claimed her third grand slam title and second in New York, overcoming Azarenka 1-6 6-3 6-3 in the decider on Saturday.

The Japanese star found herself behind a set and a break before fighting back.

Osaka, 22, said her aim was to avoid a thrashing after making such a poor start.

"I think in the first set I was so nervous, I wasn't moving my feet," she told a news conference.

"I felt like I was not playing – not that I expect myself to play 100 per cent, but it would be nice if I could even play, like, 70 per cent. But, yeah, I just felt like I was too much in my own head.

"Then in the second set, of course I was down early, which really didn't help me out. I just thought to myself to be positive, don't lose 6-1 6-0, hopefully give her a slight run for her money.

"Yeah, I just sort of ran with that line of thinking."

Osaka wore a face mask bearing the name of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old African-American boy shot and killed by police in 2014.

It was the seventh different name worn by Osaka at the US Open as she drew attention to police brutality and racism.

Asked if she would be willing to meet families of victims at the end of the season, Osaka said: "Yeah, I mean, definitely. I feel like for me I learn more through experiences.

"Everyone sort of thinks they know, or I actually don't want to know how they're feeling or how they felt during the process.

"For me, I feel like sharing stories and hearing people's experiences is very valuable."

Victoria Azarenka hopes French Open organisers will put players first "rather than making money".

The rescheduled grand slam is set to start on September 27 amid the coronavirus pandemic, with fans to be in attendance.

Although it will be a limited number of spectators, it comes as COVID-19 cases surge again in France.

After losing the US Open final to Naomi Osaka on Saturday, Azarenka urged officials to protect players.

"I'm kind of excited for that, to play on clay. I haven't had the best relationship with clay seasons for years. Last year I kind of had a lot of fun. So I'm looking forward to just slide a little more," she told a news conference.

"It will be very interesting for me to see how French Open is going to handle the situation with the bubble life, with the COVID now.

"I hope they will do a good job of protecting the players first rather than making money. So we'll see."

Azarenka fell short of a third grand slam title and first since 2013, losing 1-6 6-3 6-3 to Osaka in what was her fifth major final.

While accepting the defeat hurt, the Belarusian said she would move on quickly.

"I'm not disappointed. I'm not necessarily disappointed. It's just painful. It's painful to lose. That is what it is. It was close. I was close. But it didn't go my way," Azarenka said.

"Am I going to think about it too long? Not at all. I said it. I win or I lose, I'm not going to change. I'm not going to sit here and be miserable. This was an experience that was just an experience that didn't go my way.

"I had a great two weeks. I enjoyed myself. I did everything I could today. Could I have played better? I think I could. But I left everything I could on the court today. She won the match. All the credit to Naomi. She's a champion.

"As I said, I thought third time is a charm, but I got to try again. That's what I'm going to do."

Naomi Osaka landed her second US Open title in three years – and unlike last time there was unmitigated joy for the Japanese player.

Her 2018 triumph was largely overshadowed by Serena Williams' outbursts towards umpire Carlos Ramos, which led to a hostile crowd atmosphere, even during the trophy ceremony.

Osaka hid her face behind a visor, having been reduced to tears, and it was about as unpleasant as any first grand slam victory experience could possibly be.

On that occasion, Osaka struggled to find a smile. Sensing the crowd were baying for a Williams win, she said then: "I know everyone was cheering for her and I'm sorry it had to end like this."

But this time Osaka had her moment, albeit in unusual circumstances, with no spectators inside Arthur Ashe Stadium but for a scattering of officials, players, coaches and loved

She was able to celebrate with her team, with nothing to detract from the moment.

The satisfaction was obvious, with the 22-year-old securing her third slam, lying down on the court and taking in the moment after fending off Victoria Azarenka 1-6 6-3 6-3.

Osaka would have raised laughter from a crowd with her description of that moment, explaining why she did not fall immediately to the floor after sealing the win but carefully chose her spot.

"Because I always see everyone collapse after match point," she said, asked what was going through her mind. "But I always think you may injure yourself so I wanted to do it safely."

She explained how she was able to turn around the match. Doing so made Osaka the first player since Arantxa Sanchez Vicario against Steffi Graf at the 1994 US Open to drop the opening set yet take the women's singles title.

"I just thought it would be very embarrassing to lose this in under an hour so I had to try as hard as I can and stop having a really bad attitude," Osaka said.

There was clear bonhomie between the two finalists, with Azarenka telling Osaka: "I'm very happy for you and I hope we can meet in some more finals again."

In response, Osaka said: "I actually don't want to play you in more finals. I didn't really enjoy that! It was a really tough match for me."

She came onto the court wearing a mask bearing the name of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old African-American boy who was shot dead by police in Cleveland, Ohio, six years ago.

Osaka has worn similar masks, with a different name each time, throughout the tournament, in her effort to encourage the conversation in the United States and beyond about racial inequality and police brutality.

Asked what message she was trying to get across, Osaka told the on-court interviewer: "What was the message that you got? [That] was more of the question.

"The point is to make people start talking.

"I've been inside of the bubble so I'm not really sure what's really going on in the outside world. All I can tell is what's going on on social media and I feel like the more retweets it gets – that's so lame, but you know, the more people talk about it."

Naomi Osaka landed the third grand slam title of her career and second at the US Open as she produced a brilliant fightback to deny Victoria Azarenka.

The Japanese player won 1-6 6-3 6-3 inside Arthur Ashe Stadium, becoming only the fifth player in the Open Era to win her first three finals at the majors.

It was a staggering effort, not least because she lost the first set in just 27 minutes, with Azarenka carrying on where she left off against Serena Williams in the semi-finals.

At that stage, the final at Flushing Meadows looked set to be disappointingly one-sided and brief, and that sense was only accentuated when Azarenka broke immediately in the second set too.

By then there had already been one racket fling from Osaka, the 22-year-old who might just become the dominant player of her generation but found herself in a huff.

Suddenly, however, the match flipped. Osaka began to land her big shots, and the result was that she won seven of the next eight games.

Azarenka, a two-time Australian Open champion, lost back-to-back US Open finals to Williams in 2012 and 2013, and she dearly did not want to experience that feeling again.

When Osaka broke to lead 3-1 in the decider, it seemed Azarenka was destined to experience that unwanted hat-trick.

It came as a surprise when Osaka then allowed Azarenka three break points in the next game, but somehow she avoided dropping serve.

In a match of twists, there were more to come, firstly with Azarenka scoring that much-needed break back in Osaka's next service game, only to then lose her own serve.

Osaka, 5-3 up, serving for the match, just about held her nerve as Azarenka kept the pressure on.

Eventually, Azarenka netted a backhand, and Osaka shrieked in delight, touched rackets with Azarenka and lay down on the court.

She had every right to savour the moment. Champion in 2018, that night was overshadowed for many, even perhaps for Osaka, by Williams, on her way to defeat, rowing with chair umpire Carlos Ramos.

This time it was Osaka's moment and hers alone. A wide smile across her face told its own story.

Serena Williams has pulled out of the Internazionali d'Italia tournament in Rome, citing an Achilles injury.

The US Open semi-finalist entered the WTA Tour event with the intention of gaining match practice on clay before the upcoming French Open.

That delayed grand slam takes place from September 27 to October 11 in Paris, switched from its original May start due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Williams fell short in her bid to land a record-equalling 24th grand slam when she was edged out by Victoria Azarenka in New York this week, when she needed medical assistance for the Achilles pain.

She stressed afterwards that she intended to play the French Open, but the Rome event, which begins on Monday, has now been scratched from her plans.

Former world number one Williams said in a statement released by the WTA: "I regretfully must withdraw from the Internazionali BNL d'Italia due to an Achilles strain."

Petra Kvitova and Bianca Andreescu will also be absent from the tournament after the WTA announced their withdrawals.

Simona Halep is among those returning to action, however, with the world number two having opted to miss the US Open due to concerns related to the pandemic.

Eugenie Bouchard moved within touching distance of her first WTA Tour final since March 2016 as the former Wimbledon finalist extended her Istanbul Cup run.

The 26-year-old Canadian scored a 3-6 6-4 7-5 win over world number 92 Danka Kovinic at the clay-court event to book a semi-final against Spain's Paula Badosa.

Bouchard looked to have the tennis world at her feet in 2014 when she reached two grand slam semi-finals as well as her run to the title match at the All England Club.

Her career has followed a largely downwards trajectory but there have been signs that Bouchard, now a lowly 272nd in the rankings, might be set to climb again.

The Montreal-born player's last final came at the Malaysian Open four and a half years ago, when she lost in three sets to Elina Svitolina.

She had to come through qualifying to earn a main-draw place this week but the effort is paying off.

Bouchard battled what were reported to be shoulder issues in the win over Kovinic on Friday, and said it was a gutsy attitude that saw her win a match that lasted three hours and two minutes.

"I won because of not giving up, fighting, being tired physically and mentally. So I'm really proud of that," Bouchard said, according to the WTA website.

"It shows me that even though I wasn't feeling great before the match, at the start of the match and in the first set, that I can turn things around. There's always hope.

"It gives me a sense of confidence that I can give myself a chance, even when things aren’t going well."

Badosa beat Slovenian third seed Polona Hercog 4-6 6-3 6-4, with Czech player Tereza Martincova and Romanian Patricia Maria Tig setting up a semi-final clash in the bottom half of the draw after both had emphatic last-eight wins.

Victoria Azarenka will try to take a "neutral" mentality into her US Open final showdown with Naomi Osaka after claiming she is no longer a player fuelled by ego.

The 31-year-old former world number one overcame a torrid first set to defeat Serena Williams 1-6 6-3 6-3 and book a place in the Flushing Meadows showpiece.

Williams, whose search for a record-equalling 24th grand slam goes on, beat Azarenka in each of her previous final appearances in New York in 2012 and 2013.

The Belarusian won the Australian Open in each of those years but a succession of form, fitness and personal problems have contributed to those being her most recent triumphs at the highest level.

After earning the chance to end that drought against Osaka, who Azarenka was due to face in the final of last month's Western & Southern Open before her opponent withdrew due to a hamstring strain, she told reporters it was an opportunity she would approach with humility.

"I think when you're coming up from kind of nothing, then you become a number one player in the world, sometimes you can start to think you're invincible and that you're better than everybody, and it's not true," Azarenka said.

"So the ego starts to grow. It's very hurtful when it gets damaged, so...

"Instead of getting the ego damaged, I tried to remove that and learn from my mistakes of that ego, and realising that being a tennis player doesn't make you better or worse than anybody else, that you're still human, and all you can do is try to be the best version of yourself and keep improving."

Azarenka has taken to sitting with her eyes closed during the change of ends and explained this was an exercise used to clear her mind of any thoughts during high-pressure moments.

"Absolutely nothing. That's my goal," she said.

"When s*** happens to you, you're like, oh, let's be positive, let's be positive.

"It's sometimes impossible to be positive. So being neutral, just not going into negativity is very useful. It's very simple."

Williams confirmed afterwards that she would take part in the forthcoming French Open and Azarenka admires her old rival's longevity and quest to match Margaret Court's all-time slam record.

"I think it's amazing," she added. "There's no other thoughts.

"Someone who is an amazing champion going for what she wants to do. All admiration from my side."

Two-time major champion Naomi Osaka will go into this year's US Open final with a different mindset.

Osaka won her first grand slam singles title at Flushing Meadows two years ago, overcoming Serena Williams in a match that was overshadowed by the 23-time major champion's incredible meltdown.

The Japanese followed that success up with glory at the 2019 Australian Open, but did not go beyond the fourth round of a major again until this fortnight in New York.

Osaka defeated Jennifer Brady 7-6 (7-1) 3-6 6-3 on Thursday and, having been the runner-up at the Western & Southern Open when tennis returned from its suspension amid the coronavirus pandemic, she feels in a better place going into her third major final.

"I feel like my mindset is much different this time around. I feel like I've learned so much through the ups and downs, not even counting the finals, but just regular tour tournaments," said Osaka after her semi-final triumph.

"I would say mentally I feel stronger. I feel fitter now. It's going to be interesting to see what happens.

"I feel like the older you get, the more mentally strong you are. I think that's something that you learn from being on the tour for such a long time, playing so many matches.

"But for me, definitely my goal during these two tournaments was to be more mentally strong and to fight for every point. So that's what I'm going to go into the final with. Nothing is going to change that."

Osaka was denied a rematch with Williams in the US Open final by Victoria Azarenka, who won a semi-final against the great American 1-6 6-3 6-3.

World number 27 Azarenka is in good form having won the Western & Southern Open by walkover after Osaka withdrew from the final due to a left hamstring injury.

Osaka said of the Belarusian: "I've played her once in Roland Garros. I played her twice, but the Roland Garros one is the most recent one that I remember.

"Yeah, she seems really confident now. She's moving well. I don't know. I don't try to think about other matches right after the match that I just finished. But [it] should be tough."

Osaka believes the hard work she put in during lockdown has paid dividends since the return of professional tennis.

"You're never really sure how things will pan out. But I felt like I put in as much work as I could, and I tried as hard as I could during the quarantine to get myself ready. For me, I felt that's the only thing I could possibly to," she said.

"Yeah, I feel like my first match in [the Western & Southern Open], I was super nervous. But I was really happy with the level that I was playing. I just tried to keep building from that. Now I'm here."

Serena Williams had been hunting down US Open glory this fortnight with the same hunger she showed when winning a first grand slam singles title at Flushing Meadows 21 years ago.

It was September 11, 1999, when a 17-year-old Williams proved the theory she was destined for greatness, seeing off Martina Hingis at Flushing Meadows to cap a spectacular run through the draw.

Big sister Venus had been expected to land a singles slam first, being 15 months Serena's senior and ranked higher. Venus' time would come, but it was the younger sibling who triumphed that time in New York.

There will be no record-equalling 24th major at the same site this year following a semi-final loss to Victoria Azarenka on Thursday, though.

But, with the help of Opta, we look back at how Serena got started at her home slam.


The Williams sisters had been spoken about long before they took their first steps on the WTA Tour, with their talents having been nurtured from an early age by father and coach Richard. He and they eschewed the typical pathway through the junior ranks, after a rush of early age-group success, focusing instead on moving into the professional game, fighting racial prejudice along the way.

In November 1997, Serena announced her arrival when, just turned 16, she beat Mary Pierce and Monica Seles at an event in Scottsdale, before reaching the semi-finals in Sydney at the start of the 1998 season.

Unseeded, she won an indoor title in Paris early in 1999 by beating local hero Amelie Mauresmo in the final after seeing off three previous French opponents. A fortnight later, she overcame Steffi Graf to triumph at Indian Wells. With Venus, she then won the French Open doubles, a first taste of grand slam glory.

Serena missed Wimbledon through injury but any doubts over her fitness were banished by victory at a Los Angeles tournament a week before the US Open, where she beat world number one Hingis for the second time.

That week is perhaps best remembered for Graf, fed up of battling injury, announcing her retirement. As one queen of the courts departed, another was continuing quite the sublime entrance.


The seismic moment the tennis world had been waiting for arrived earlier than many imagined, even if teenage players winning majors was nothing new.

Hingis won three slams as a 16-year-old in 1997, adding two more at the 1998 and 1999 Australian Opens, and the likes of Graf, Chris Evert and Seles were all in their teens when they made major title breakthroughs in the women's game.

Serena's win stood out for many reasons, not least that it made her the first African-American woman to win a grand slam singles title in the Open Era. The great Althea Gibson won five singles slams in the 1950s, during tennis' amateur age, but another such triumph had been a long time coming.

Serena would not rise to number one in the world until July 2002, but that first major would be followed by many more, and heading to New York this year she had 23 singles slams - an Open Era record (ahead of Graf - 22, Evert - 18, Martina Navratilova - 18) and just one short of the all-time best achieved by Court.

One women's record Serena owns outright is the number of grand slam titles on hard courts, as nobody matches her 13 successes.


What was most remarkable about Serena's 1999 run to the title was the calibre of the opposition she fended off.

A 6-1 6-0 annihilation of Kimberly Po in round one was followed by a straight-sets win over Jelena Kostanic, but the real tests were to come.

Williams was pushed hard by 16-year-old Kim Clijsters in round three, taking a decider 7-5 against the future three-time US Open champion, before picking off grand slam winners Conchita Martinez, Seles and defending title-holder Lindsay Davenport en route to the final, each match going to three sets.

Hingis, by contrast, had only dropped one set all tournament, and that came against Venus in their semi-final battle.

After scuppering the hopes of Martinez, Seles and Davenport, Hingis was a fourth successive seeded opponent for Serena, who triumphed 6-3 7-6 (7-4) against the 18-year-old Swiss.

Hingis, once seen as the likely successor to Graf as a long-time standard setter, would never win another singles slam.


For Serena, for the Williams sisters, for tennis, the final grand slam tournament of the 1990s had seen a moment of monumental significance.

United States president Bill Clinton called to offer his congratulations minutes after the women's final ended, and the young Serena acknowledged the symbolism of the success, the possibilities it could open up.

At her post-match news conference, she spoke of Gibson's legacy, saying: "One of her best friends told me she wanted to see another African-American win a slam before her time is up.

"I'm so excited I had a chance to accomplish that while she's still alive. It's just really great."

Gibson died in late September 2003, by which time Serena had six singles slams. Even then, Serena was only getting started.

Serena Williams said she will contest the upcoming French Open after her US Open semi-final elimination at the hands of Victoria Azarenka, while playing down an Achilles issue.

Williams' bid to win a record-equalling 24th grand slam title was put on hold once more following a 1-6 6-3 6-3 loss to former world number Azarenka in New York on Thursday.

Not since claiming the 2017 Australian Open has American superstar Williams clinched a major trophy, despite reaching four finals in that period.

And Williams' wait continues after two-time slam champion Azarenka completed a stunning comeback on Arthur Ashe Stadium at Flushing Meadows, where the unseeded Belarusian advanced to her first major decider since 2013.

With the rescheduled French Open due to get underway on September 27 amid the coronavirus pandemic, attention turned to Roland Garros post-match and Williams was asked if she would be competing in Paris.

"I'm definitely going to be going to Paris," Williams, a three-time French Open winner, told reporters.

Williams stormed out of the blocks under the New York lights, the 38-year-old hitting 12 winners and breaking serve three times in a devastating opening set.

But Azarenka refused to surrender in an entertaining battle between two mothers on the WTA Tour, outlasting Williams in just under two hours on court.

"I started really strong," Williams said. "Then she just kept fighting. She just changed and started playing better and better. Maybe I took a little too much off the gas pedal at some point."

"It's obviously disappointing," she continued. "At the same time, I did what I could today. I feel like other times I've been close and I could have done better. Today I felt like I gave a lot."

There was a worrying moment early in the final set when Williams was hunched over and required a medical timeout.

Initially thought to be an ankle problem, Williams said: "It wasn't much. I just was stretching. Like, I ran for a shot.

"Off that first step that I took, it wasn't my ankle, it was actually my Achilles. It just overstretched. It was pretty intense. Then that was that.

"It feels fine. I don't think it had anything to do. I think Victoria played well. It didn't affect my play ultimately at all, just for that one point."

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