Next Tennis Grand Slam
A look back at Serena Williams' victory over Maria Sharapova in the women's Australian Open final.
Serena Williams defeated Maria Sharapova to win the Australian Open.(Photo: Rob Griffith, AP)
MELBOURNE, Australia – More than 15 years after she won her first major title at the age of 17, Serena Williams, now with 18 more Grand Slams to her name, is more motivated than ever.
History is what Williams is playing against now in her career. And her place in it, she says, is what drives her.
"I never thought that I would be sitting and having this discussion, " Williams told a small group of reporters inside Rod Laver Arena after winning the Australian Open on Saturday, her 19th major. "Before I just had a dream and a racket and two wonderful parents who supported me. A part of me thinks, 'Wow, I really have a chance to create history, ' and a part of me thinks, 'Wow, I've done so much. This is amazing.' I just try to look at both sides of it."
In what has become modern tennis' most decidedly one-sided rivalry, Williams defeated Maria Sharapova, 6-3, 7-6(5), marking her 16th straight win over the Russian.
It was a victory that vaulted Williams past greats Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert in the Grand Slam singles count.
Suddenly the discussion turns to history's next great figure in women's tennis: Steffi Graf's 22 Grand Slams, the record in the Open era.
"I would love to get to 22, " Williams said after her win, a hard-fought, bruising effort against an inspired Sharapova. "But I have to get to 20 first, and then I have to get to 21... There are so many wonderful young players coming up, so it will be a very big task."
Winning the title here for the first time in five years was a big task, too. Williams struggled in her early matches at Melbourne Park, twice coming back from a set down. A cough lingered in her chest for much of the fortnight, and Saturday night she vomited off court during a rain delay, she said.
But on fought Serena, and on fights Serena. She has distanced herself by the length of three tennis courts from the next greatest in this generation, her sister Venus, who has won seven Grand Slam singles trophies. Sharapova has five.
"I'm proud to be part of an era where she's in, " Sharapova, 27, said of Williams after the loss. "I love playing against the best, and at the moment she is."
This moment and many before. And what about after? At 33, Williams says she feels better than ever.
"I feel like I'm doing everything better, " Williams told Evert in an interview on ESPN. "My mom told me at 30 that these are my best years. I'm serving better, I'm hitting the ball better. Thirty is the new 20, I guess."
Twenty also happens to be the number of majors that she's chasing in the Grand Slam win column.
History, from Melbourne, cranes its neck towards Paris and the red dirt of Roland Garros.
"When I think about Paris, I don't think about 20, " Williams explains. "I just think about winning there. It's the one Slam I don't have more than two titles (at)."
You know you're making history when Slams are measured by not if you've won them, but how many of them you've won – and won and won.