For the record, this is bad news for the rest of woman's tennis. Serena Williams is the first thirtysomething winner of the US Open since Martina Navratilova a quarter of a century ago and at Flushing Meadows overnight she was modest and realistic about her future goals in the grand slam tournaments.
"If I could win two a year it would be great," she said. Having moved on to 15 major wins, spanning 13 years, by beating Victoria Azarenka to take this title, maintaining such a ratio for the next five years would be sufficient for her to overcome Navratilova, Chris Evert, Helen Wills Moody, Steffi Graf and Margaret Court to become the most successful player in the history of the sport. She is ahead of schedule in 2012: her swag includes two Grand Slams and an Olympic gold.
By rights, Serena should probably be closer to such idols of the sport than she is this morning. The 30-year-old has missed no fewer than 10 slams for one reason or another since winning her first US Open as a 17-year-old back in 1999, and spurned hugely promising situations on a few other high-profile occasions, none more so than when losing the plot at officialdom during high-profile losses to Kim Clijsters and Sam Stosur here twice in the last three years. As in the 2009 semi-final defeat by Clijsters, Williams was foot-faulted against Azarenka, while losing the second set.
"This is the first year in a long time I haven't lost my cool," she admitted. "I am sure everyone was thinking about last year. But that was never on my mind, because I was just focused. I was just thinking, 'okay, which foot was it?' So I would know not to do that again."
For once, the US Open actually had a contest to speak of on women's finals day. Remarkably, this was the first year since 1995 that the final of this event had required a third set. World No.1 Azarenka was two points away from the title at 5-3, 30-30 then serving for the championship at 5-4, only to lose the last four games to her re-energised opponent.
"I definitely like living on the edge too much, I'm going to try to get off the edge," Serena said. "An exciting final definitely is better as long as you're on the winning side; it's no good if you're on the losing side. When you look back at the film and footage, it's always really exciting to see that it was a close match. Obviously, I would have wanted to win easy. But at the same time, this is more exciting, because you don't really know what's coming."
There are signs of a resurgence in the women's game, with Azarenka, Maria Sharapova, Petra Kvitova, Angelique Kerber and Agnieszka Radwanska looking viable grand slam threats – not to mention Laura Robson's attempts to show she can live with such company – but the Williams serve is still the one shot that dominates. She served 26 more aces than any other player this tournament, getting 58% of her total serves in play, and finding only 56% of them coming back over the net.
Williams has a complicated relationship with the New York crowd but it marked a homecoming of sorts after her travails at Flushing Meadows and the pulmonary embolism and injuries to her foot and back and that laid her low during 2011. She said her health issues had nothing on those suffered by big sister Venus, who has been diagnosed with Sjogen's syndrome, an incurable auto-immune deficiency.
"I don't think about the downs too much," Serena said. "I hope I never think about them as my life continues. But I really think a champion is defined not by their wins but by how they can recover when they fall. Whenever my back hurts or my foot hurts, I'm thinking, 'seriously Serena, you don't have what Venus has, so just get over it'." Her longevity in itself was a source of pride. "Thirteen years is a long time between the first and the last [titles]," she said. "Three decades, the '90s, 2000s, 2010s. That's kinda cool."
Contextual targeting label: