NEW YORK: Serena Williams believes clinching an 18th Grand Slam title is more significant than the sixth US Open she won on Sunday and vowed to keep adding to her majors collection.
The world number one swept past close friend Caroline Wozniacki 6-3, 6-3 in the final to go level with Chris Evert as a six-time champion in New York.
The win also took her level with Evert and Martina Navratilova with 18 majors.
Both legends even stumped up for a gold bracelet for the 32-year-old Williams bought from Tiffany in New York to mark the occasion with ’18’ engraved into its single charm.
“Maybe the 18th was the most important because I was joining Chrissy and Martina. There was so much on the line between getting to number 18, which has been on my shoulder for so long and I finally got it,” said a tearful Williams.
“I never thought that me, Serena Williams would be in that group. Who am I? I never thought you would mention my name with such greats and legends. I was just a kid with a dream and a racquet. Living in Compton, you know.”
The American star now has 63 tour titles while her US Open prize money fund took her on-court career earnings through the $63 million mark.
But within three hours of her latest major — a sixth in New York added to her five at Wimbledon, five in Australia and two at the French Open — she was already planning on a 19th in Melbourne.
That would take her to within three of Steffi Graf’s 22 and closer to Margaret Court’s all-time mark of 24.
“I’m already looking at maybe No. 19. I want to continue to rise and continue to play really hard and do the best that I can.”
Williams won her first US Open in 1999 as a 17-year-old and added further triumphs in 2002, 2008, 2012 and 2013.
In her last three visits to New York she has been taken to three sets just twice — both in the finals of 2012 and 2013 by Victoria Azarenka — and has only been stretched to a single tiebreak.
She had not won a major in 2014 before Sunday, failing to get beyond the fourth round at the Australian and French Opens as well as Wimbledon.
But she came into the US Open winning two hard court warm-ups in Stanford and Cincinnati and finishing runner-up to sister Venus in Montreal.
Williams said that when she fell to the ground to mark her victory she was concerned that her celebrations may have been premature, concerned that fate may have conspired against her after such a relatively low-key year.
“Just after Wimbledon (where she lost in the third round) I was just so disappointed. Because I worked so hard. Six hours literally just training, training, training, nonstop. After that, I thought, Well, maybe I shouldn’t train so much because the results aren’t coming.
“Maybe I should just try something new. I just went away for a week and a half and I didn’t practice as much. I practiced, but I didn’t practice as long. I made sure I hit every day. At that moment I also realized I just needed to relax a little more. I put a lot of pressure on myself.”
Her coach Patrick Mouratoglou said that Williams had overcome a significant hurdle.
“This 18th title was important for her, the press campaign was based all around this,” he said. “It was a psychological peak.”
Her continuing dominance of the women’s game is astounding for a player who made her US Open debut in 1998 when Wozniacki, for example, had just turned eight.
Williams will be 33 in under three weeks’ time and she admits she’s as tough to beat as ever.
“I always say it’s difficult to beat me because I serve pretty good, I have a pretty good return, I’m pretty fast. If I’m doing all those things combined, you know, it’s definitely difficult to win,” she warned.