Things couldn't have been much tighter in the 58-minute first set, with the two players trading breaks right off the bat but the next seven games going to the server, right up until what could be considered a turning point in the match - Williams' 4-5 service game. It lasted nearly 10 minutes and though she didn't face a set point in it, she was two points from losing a handful of times - but she blasted an ace to get to 5-all, broke for 6-5 and served the set out emphatically at love. The first set to Williams, 7-5.
That momentum contined in the second set as Williams extended her run to five games in a row to go up 2-0 and eventually a 4-1, double break lead, seemingly on her way to a runaway victory. There was a lot of life left in Azarenka, though - the No.2-seeded Belarusian won five of the next seven games to take the set to a tie-break then, after missing out on her first two set points at 6-4 and 6-5, she took her third opportunity at 7-6, winning the 70-minute set on a backhand from Williams that sailed long.
But no one regroups better than Williams - on the biggest stages in particular - and the No.1-seeded American wrestled control again early in the third set, reeling off five games in a row from 1-all to clinch her fifth US Open title, 17th Grand Slam title and that historic $3.6-million payout, 75 67(6) 61.
Despite falling just short, Azarenka was extremely gracious in her speech at the trophy ceremony.
"It's a tough loss, but to be in the final again and play against the best was great," Azarenka said. "We fought hard and gave all our hearts out there, and I just have to say congratulations to Serena."
Williams was equally gracious - not just to Azarenka, but to her beloved home crowd in New York.
"I definitely felt the love today, so thank you all for the support - it's an honor playing in New York, and I give all the love and glory to Jehovah," Williams told the fans. "Victoria's such a great player and a great person too, and it was an honor to play against you. And thank you to everyone in the box too!"
The World No.1 was asked to elaborate on the World No.2's fightback in the second set. "Vika's such a great opponent and such a great fighter, and that's why she's been able to win multiple Grand Slams," Williams commented. "So that's why the match definitely wasn't over until match point today."
Williams is now tied for second place in the Open Era for most US Open titles (Chris Evert leads with six and Steffi Graf also has five) and is still in fourth place in the Open Era for most Grand Slam titles (Graf leads with 22 and Evert and Martina Navratilova are tied for second place with 18 each).
And that $3.6-million payout is the biggest winner's payout in the history of professional tennis.