Serena Williams returned to the Indian Wells final for the first time since making up with the tournament after a 14-year absence, but the world No. 1 was stopped on Sunday by former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka 6-4, 6-4.
“I wanted to first address a personal thank you to Serena,” said Azarenka, who with the win returns to the Top 10, in her on-court speech. “I know how emotional it was for you to be back here and you truly inspired so many people out there to see the type of commitment you have to the game. It’s truly inspiring…If it wasn’t for you and how hard you work and seeing you play so well, I wouldn’t be as motivated to come back and work so hard. Thank you on behalf of the sport.”
Williams was one for nine on break point opportunities and committed 33 unforced errors. But from 1-5 down Williams looked like she might even the match, winning four straight games before Azarenka closed it out.
“It was really hard — the last moment I had here wasn’t the greatest, so thank you so much,” Williams said, trying to hold back tears. “Thank you so much for the cheers; I can’t tell you how much it means to me. I can’t even begin to tell you. I’m just so happy to be able to stand here again.”
It was only the fourth win in 21 career meetings for Azarenka against Williams. The Belarussian ended a five-match losing streak against the American defeating her for a fourth time in a final, most among any player.
The title also moves Azarenka back into the Top 10 for the first time in 18 months.
Both players next head to Miami where Williams will be looking for a ninth career singles title.
— victoria azarenka (@vika7) March 20, 2016
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