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.