Azarenka hails 'great' Serena
New York - Victoria Azarenka hailed Serena Williams as the greatest player of all time on Sunday and vowed to learn from suffering a chastening 10th defeat in 11 meetings with the American veteran in the US Open final.
Williams captured a fourth title in New York on Sunday to take her career majors total to 15 with a 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 victory, the first women's final to go the distance in 17 years.
World number one Azarenka was outplayed in the first set before staging a rousing fightback which saw her serve for the match at 5-4 in the decider before Williams called upon all of her experience and shot-making prowess to pull through.
"For me, she's the greatest player of all time. She has taken the game to the next level," said 23-year-old Azarenka, who was just 10 when Williams won her first US Open as a teenager in 1999.
"But I have to be positive because I feel like these kind of matches, every time I play Serena, it really pushes me to be better, to improve, to move forward. I have to be thankful to her for that."
Azarenka has only beaten Williams once - in the 2009 Miami final - with seven of her defeats coming in the majors.
Sunday's match represented her fourth loss to Williams in 2012 alone.
"She makes me all the time make sure that I'm taking my game, my personality, my physical aspect to the next level," said Azarenka.
"Having few of the players like that in the women's tour is something priceless, something that you cannot take away. It's the people who like Maria (Sharapova), like Petra (Kvitova) those kind of girls, they always push me to be better.
"Today(Sunday) I was close. I'm going to have another opportunity to make something better. That's what I'm looking for."
Azarenka pointed to the Williams serve as being key in her ongoing struggles.
The American finished the US Open with 63 aces - 26 more than second-best Sharapova - after firing 102 at Wimbledon this year on her way to a fifth All England Club title.
"The serve is definitely the biggest asset. If you look at both our games, it's the biggest difference," said the Belarusian.
"And the mental, she never gives up. She's a great champion. She knows how to play. She's the toughest player mentally there is and she's got the power."
Azarenka's French coach Sam Sumyk believes the fiercely patriotic 23 000-crowd packed inside Arthur Ashe Stadium helped carry Williams through.
"The atmosphere was electric, you don't find that anywhere else. Perhaps that made a difference," Sumyk said.
"I am very proud of my player. I am usually critical but today(Sunday) I have no reason to be so tough. A tournament like this will make her better. Victoria is on the way to showing that she can be very strong."
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