World number justifies her status with victory in the US Open final.
Serena Williams is enjoying the moment rather than chasing history, but winning a fifth US Open on Sunday just 18 days before turning 32 has given her some age-defying and record-rivaling Grand Slam ideas.
World number one Williams defeated second-ranked Victoria Azarenka of Belarus 7-5, 6-7 (6/8), 6-1 to defend her title and win her 17th career Grand Slam crown, as many as men’s record-holder Roger Federer has collected.
“It’s an honor to be even with Roger,” Williams said. “He has been such a great champion throughout the years and he’s just an unbelievable competitor. It feels really good to be in that same league as him.”
Williams remains seven shy of Margaret Court’s all-time major record of 24 titles and five adrift of Steffi Graf’s Open-Era mark of 22, but a fourth major title after turning 30 has made her think about collecting many, many more.
“I feel great. I have never felt better,” Williams said. “I feel really fit. I can play a tournament like this, singles and doubles, with tough schedules. I haven’t felt like this in a number of years.
“I’m excited about the possibilities. I don’t know what can happen.”
Williams, who won her first Grand Slam at the US Open in 1999 at age 17, has also won five Wimbledon and Australian Open titles as well as taking her second French Open crown earlier this year.
“Being older, it’s always awesome and such a great honor, because I don’t know if I’ll ever win another Grand Slam,” Williams said.
“It has more meaning in history. It’s definitely a different feeling. It was amazing winning at 17. The difference is it hasn’t settled in yet. I’m thinking still about what I could have done better and why I didn’t do that.
“I think I’m a little crazy in that part, like something must be not right because I don’t even relish the moment enough. I just automatically think, ‘What’s next?'”
Williams served for the match twice in the second set, each time being broken by Azarenka, a two-time Australian Open champion. After faltering in the tie-breaker, she dominated the third set for the victory.
“I got a little uptight, which probably wasn’t the best thing,” Williams said. “It was just good to get through that. At that point, just getting the win under your belt is awesome.”
By winning the rematch of last year’s final, Williams became the first top seeded US Open champion since Justine Henin in 2007 and the first woman to defend the crown successfully since Kim Clijsters in 2010.
Williams said she never considered changing her pink dress despite gusting winds that blew it to her waist at times.
“The wind was unbelievable. It just got worse and worse and never let up,” Williams said. “I didn’t think about changing. Not at all.”
Among her well-wishers after the triumph was former US President Bill Clinton.
“We reminisced about when I was a teenager and how he first saw me then coming to the White House and several times at the US Open,” she said. “It was interesting because we actually have a history. That’s kind of unique to have a history with a former president of the United States of America.”
It was the 55th career title for Williams and her ninth of the year, a one-season personal best. She took home $3.6 million in prize money and bonuses to give her more than $9 million this year and more than $50 million lifetime.
That endears her to another US government figure — Uncle Sam, the fictional character who is sometimes used to symbolize America’s tax man.
“Someone told me today I passed 50 (million), but half of that goes to my Uncle Sam. I love him. I’m always giving him half my money.”