Tennis

Serena's winning streak ends at 14

Serena Williams
Serena Williams has never won the title in Cincinnati.
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Top-ranked Serena Williams wilted just one set away from a breakthrough win at a tournament that has eluded her all her career.

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

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 committed 58 unforced errors that turned the momentum.

''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.''

The week in Cincinnati provided a preview for the U.S. Open — both for the men's bracket, where it's more jumbled at the top, and the women's, where it's more settled.

Williams has dominated the female side, 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 that 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.

Victorioa Azarenka

Victorioa Azarenka of Belarus sprays champagne at the trophy ceremonyt after defeating Serena Williams during the final of the Western & Southern Open on August 18, 2013 at Lindner Family Tennis Center in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Matthew Stockman

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.

Williams had won two straight titles since a surprising loss to Sabine Lisicki in the fourth round at Wimbledon. Here is the whole winning streak since:

Swedish Open

First round — Def. Sesil Karatantcheva, 6-1, 6-2

Second round — Def. Anna Tatishvili, 6-2, 6-3

Quarterfinals — Def. Lourdes Dominguez Lino, 6-1, 6-1

Semifinals — Def. Klara Zakopalova, 6-0, 6-4

Final — Def. Johanna Larsson, 6-4, 6-1

Rogers Cup

Second round — Def. Francesca Schiavone, 6-3, 6-2

Third round — Def. Kirsten Flipkens, 6-0, 6-3

Quarterfinals — Def. Magdalena Rybarikova, 6-1, 6-1

Semifinals — Def. Agnieszka Radwanska, 7-6 (3), 6-4

Final — Def. Sorana Cirstea, 6-2, 6-0

Western & Southern Open

Second roung — Def. Eugenie Bouchard, 4-6, 6-2, 6-2

Third round — Def. Mona Barthel, 6-4, 6-1

Quarterfinals — Def. Simona Halep, 6-0, 6-4

Semifinals — Def. Li Na, 7-5, 7-5

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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