New York — Serena Williams ended a difficult-for-her Grand Slam season in the best way possible, winning her third consecutive U.S. Open championship and 18th major title overall.
And like each of her matches at Flushing Meadows the past two weeks, the final wasn’t close at all – a 6-3, 6-3 victory over good friend Caroline Wozniacki that lasted only 75 minutes Sunday.
Williams equaled Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova with 18 Grand Slam singles titles, fourth most in history. Williams also matched Evert’s total of six championships at the U.S. Open and became the first woman to win three in a row since Evert’s four-title run from 1975-78.
Not only did Williams, ranked and seeded No. 1, win all 14 sets she played in the tournament, she didn’t lose more than three games in any of them.
When the final ended, Williams dropped to her back behind the baseline, covering her face with her hands. Her first major trophy also came in New York, in 1999, when she was 17.
“It is a pleasure for me to win my first Grand Slam here and then this No. 18,” Williams said, her voice choking. “So I’m really emotional. I couldn’t ask to do it at a better place.”
Evert and Navratilova joined her on court during the trophy and check ceremony.
Williams also has won five titles apiece at Wimbledon and the Australian Open, plus two at the French Open. Only three players have more Slams to their credit: Margaret Court with 24, Steffi Graf with 22, and Helen Wills Moody with 19.
Until the U.S. Open, though, Williams had not been at her best on her sport’s biggest stages in 2014. She lost in the fourth round at the Australian Open, the second round at the French Open and the third round at Wimbledon, where a disoriented Williams also struggled through an odd appearance in doubles that was attributed to a viral illness.
Back at the top of her game, Williams broke Wozniacki’s serve five times and compiled a hard-to-believe 29-4 edge in winners.
“You really deserved it today. You played better than me,” Wozniacki, 24, said. “You’re an unbelievable champion and you’re an inspiration to me, both on and off the court. You’re an unbelievable friend – and you definitely owe drinks later.”
Remarkably, until a cross-court backhand on the run in the final game that Williams applauded, the only winners registered by the 10th-seeded Wozniacki came on a trio of aces.
That was, in part, a result of the Dane’s iffy play in only her second Grand Slam final – she lost to Kim Clijsters at the 2009 U.S. Open – but mainly due to Williams’ relentless pursuit of every ball.
A few weeks shy of her 33rd birthday, making the American the oldest major champion since Navratilova was 33 at Wimbledon in 1990, Williams powered this way and that in her black-and-pink hightops.
Wozniacki may as well have been an extra in this Williams highlight reel. Points were directed by Williams, via serves that reached 120 mph, forceful returns that backed Wozniacki into a corner when not producing outright winners, unreachable groundstrokes and the occasional volley.
— 18th major title (equaling Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova), fourth most in history.
— Third straight U.S. Open title (last time: Evert won four, 1975-78)
— Earned a record $4 million ($3 million for title, $1 million bonus for having best results during North American summer hard-court circuit ).