Top seed Serena Williams beat Victoria Azarenka in Sunday's final of the U.S. Open for the second straight year, continuing her climb up the ranks of all-time Grand Slam champions.
Williams added championship No. 5 at the National Tennis Center in New York with a 7-5, 6-7 (6-8), 6-1 win over the second seed from Belarus. The 31-year-old American came back from a third-set deficit a year ago against Azarenka to win the title at the season's final major tournament.
Wind swirled in the 22,500-seat Arthur Ashe Stadium, providing an added factor for both players to deal with.
Azarenka came back from a 4-1 deficit in the second set to force a tiebreaker and even the match.
Williams reached 4-1 in the third set, then broke serve and jumped for joy when Azarenka sent a backhand long on her second match point.
With her 17th Grand Slam singles title after winning the French Open in June for the second time, Williams moved closer to the women's all-time pro-era title lead of Steffi Graf, who had 22 major championships, and one behind Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova. Margaret Court of Australia holds the all-time record of 24 Grand Slam Singles championships, including the period when only amateurs could play.
The victory also tied Williams with Graf for the second- most U.S. Open victories in the professional era that began in 1968, one shy of Evert's mark. Williams has won Wimbledon and the Australian Open five times each as well.
Williams last year twice came back from a down a break in the third set to beat Azarenka 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 in the final, adding to her 2002, 2008 and 2009 championships in New York.
Sunday was the first time in a decade that the top two women's seeds met in the U.S. Open final. No. 2 Justine Henin- Hardenne won 7-5, 6-1 over fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters, the No. 1 seed, in 2003.
Williams never dropped a set to reach this year's final and at one point won 24 straight games, including 6-0, 6-0 over Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain in a quarterfinal and 6-0, 6-3 over Li Na of China in a semifinal.
Williams also became the first woman to win consecutive U.S. Opens against the same opponent since Graf beat Monica Seles in 1995 and 1996.
For her win today, Williams made $3.6 million, including a $1 million bonus for taking the U.S. Open Series warm-up tournament title, and earned $115,000 for reaching the semifinal round of the women's doubles with her older sister Venus. Having now won 55 singles titles and 22 in doubles, it brings her career tennis earnings to $51 million, according to the WTA tour.
Having lost to 24-year-old Azarenka last month in the final in Cincinnati, Williams improved to 13-3 in their career meetings. She is 67-4 in 2013 and has won four of the last six Grand Slam titles. Azarenka has two wins over Williams this season.
The victory further distances Williams from past injury and outbursts that defined her career almost as much as her on-court victories.
After winning Wimbledon in July 2010, Williams said she cut her foot on a shard of glass in Germany following the victory and had surgery that month. She had a second operation in October, and then in March said she was being treated for a blood clot in her lung, which may have developed as a result of the surgeries. She missed the 2010 U.S. Open and the Australian and French Opens in 2011 because of the health issues.
The men's top two seeds will meet for the championship Monday, with No. 1 Novak Djokovic of Serbia meeting No. 2 Rafael Nadal of Spain.