Victoria Azarenka rallies for title

CINCINNATI -- Serena Williams wilted in the Ohio heat Sunday night at the final of the Western & Southern Open.

AP Photo/Al Behrman

Victoria Azarenka rallied from an early hole, defeating Serena Williams in a third-set tiebreaker to win the Cincinnati title.

She dominated the first set, then fell apart, giving No. 2 Victoria Azarenka a chance to rally for a 2-6, 6-2, 7-6 (6) win that ended Williams' 14-match winning streak.

Williams had never won a Cincinnati title. She was trying for her second championship in two weeks, fresh off her championship in Toronto.

"I just felt really off this whole week, but I was surprised to be in the final and surprised to be doing well," Williams said. "So I don't know, there's a few factors. I think what matters most was just fighting the whole time and survived to the end."

Williams has dominated on the tour, going 60-4 this season. She has never done well in Cincinnati, and was eager to win on Sunday for a career-best ninth title of the season. All the statistics were in her favor -- a 12-2 career record against Azarenka, including a three-set win for the U.S. Open title last year.

She won the first set in 26 minutes, dropping only 11 points. Then, she got sloppy in a second set that bogged down. The sixth game went to deuce 12 times before Williams held serve on the 30th point. Williams appeared to wear down and lost the set 6-2.

It was reminiscent of their finals match at the U.S. Open last year, when Williams took the last four games to win 6-2, 2-6, 7-5. This time, Azarenka held on, winning a couple decisive points off Williams' serve in the tiebreaker.

Tournament officials handed her an oversized bottle of champagne when she finished off the 2-hour, 29-minute match. Azarenka was hesitant to pop the cork, until Williams encouraged her. She sprayed the court and took a sip.

"I need to get more practice because I felt like I'm not directing it too well," she said.

With her semifinal win over Li Na on Saturday, Williams clinched the 2013 Emirates Airline U.S. Open Series women's title and can earn a $1 million bonus if she wins the U.S. Open.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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