The US Open has a special place in history, especially for women's tennis. It was here that the legendary Billie Jean King spearheaded a campaign for gender rights, demanding equal pay for women who competed at the Open.
Her boycott threat in 1973 prompted the authorities to make the US Open the first among the Grand Slams to award equal prize money to men and women. It would take almost three decades for the other Grand Slam tournaments to follow suit.
The US Open is also the only Grand Slam to allow 16 women's qualifiers to enter the main draw instead of the norm of 12 which is followed by other Grand Slams. What makes the most watched Grand Slam tournament even more unique is that it offers the highest prize money among all the Majora.
Since 1887, athletes from 17 different nations have won the US Open, and American duo Chris Evert and Serena Williams lead the pack with 6 titles each in the Open Era. Arthur Ashe Stadium has been witness to many great match-ups over the years, and we delve into 4 of the best final encounters:
#4 Serena Williams vs Victoria Azarenka (2012)
The 2012 US Open title came 13 years after Serena WIlliams won her first US Open, at the age of just 17. Belarussian Victoria Azarenka, the winner of the Australian Open that year, was the number 1 ranked player in the world and the top seed. But Serena had reeled off back-to-back wins in London - first at the Wimbledon Championships and then at the London Olympic Games - to come into the tournament as the favorite.
Serena breezed her way to the final without dropping a single set, including notching up a double bagel victory in the 4th round. Azarenka's path to the final was not so straightforward as she faced a difficult week, needing 3 sets each to beat Samantha Stosur and Maria Sharapova in the quarter-final and semi-final respectively.
In the final, Azarenka struggled on her serve, not landing a single ace and winning only 55% of her first serves. On the other hand, Williams won 77% of her first serves and notched up 13 aces.
A double break of the Azarenka serve gave Serena the first set and the scoreline was matched by Azarenka in the second to level the match. In the third set, Azarenka raced to a 5-3 lead. But at 5-4 and serving for the match, she couldn't hold her nerve as a spirited Serena, buoyed by the home crowd, broke Azarenka twice to win the match 6-2, 2-6, 7-5.