Serena Williams captured her 19th career Grand Slam Saturday at the Australian Open beating longtime foe Maria Sharapova 6-3, 7-6(5) in a high-quality final that was completed indoors after a brief rain delay in the sixth game of the first set.
Serena wins her 6th career Australian Open title, 65th overall in her career. And her 19 Slams move her past both Chrissie Evert and Martina Navratilova and put her within three of Steffi Graf’s Open Era mark of 22.
The 33-year-old also becomes the oldest women’s champion at the Australian Open.
Serena finished the match with ace that was called a let. After a brief celebration, she hit the same exact serve, ending it on her 18th ace, 88th of the event.
The World No. 1 has now beaten Sharapova 16 straight times since a loss to the Russian at the 2014 WTA Championships.
Serena also improves her record in Grand Slam finals to an incredible 19-4 overall. She has never lost in six Australian Open finals.
Here’s what an elated Serena said to the press:
Q. How does it feel?
SERENA WILLIAMS: It feels really good. It feels really good to be sitting here as the champion. I definitely didn’t think I would be here in the beginning of the week or the beginning of the two weeks, but it feels pretty excellent.
Q. With how sick you have been this past week, everything you had to go through, is this perhaps one of the toughest wins you’ve managed to pull off?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, definitely I was not feeling great. Every time I didn’t feel great I started to feel better, and then the next day I got worse. There was a lot of ups and downs. So I just thought — you know, I was somehow still in the tournament and now I somehow have won. So I don’t know. It’s really exciting.
Q. How tough was the match, especially in the second set?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Oh, the match definitely got tough in the second set. Maria started playing a lot better. She started being a little more aggressive. I think I got a little more passive. Was just trying to get the ball back in play. But I also started serving better in the second set because I knew if I wasn’t having my groundstrokes where I wanted them to be, I knew I could serve it out. So, yeah, it definitely got really interesting. I had a lot of moments. I had some easy shots that I missed in the second set on her serve, and then she came up with a big serve when she was down a breakpoint, which was great. But I definitely can look back and say, Oh, I could have done a few things better just for the future.
Q. Have you ever thrown up in the middle of a match before?
SERENA WILLIAMS: No. No, actually, I’ve never done that before. I guess there’s a first time for anything. I think in a way that just helped me — I felt better after that. My chest was really stuck at that point.
Q. Did you take anything for it?
SERENA WILLIAMS: The doctor gave me a little cough syrup and sent me on my way. It was like a small, small, small amount just to suppress. I was coughing so much. It was just forcing things out of me. So I was just trying to pull myself together.
Q. Do you think you would have needed to take a break if the rain hadn’t come anyway?
SERENA WILLIAMS: You know, I don’t know. I don’t think so. You know, maybe I would have just — the same thing would have happened but maybe just on the court. Yeah, I don’t think so.
Q. What did you make of the whole rain delay? Would you have preferred the roof being closed from the start of the match if there was any chance of rain?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, when we first went out to warm up there was a little rain. So I was like, Is it raining or is it just me? So I told the umpire. She’s like, Okay. But then I guess it stopped for a second and everything was fine. Then it started raining again. Whatever the case was, it was okay with me.
Q. After the let at the match point, how confident were you to hit the same spot again?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I wasn’t confident at all. I thought after the let, Man, I am not meant to win this tournament. I had a couple of match points. I mean, she played great on those match points. She totally went for broke. I was like, C’mon. First of all, why I hear the let. Then I was like, Okay, do I go T? Do I go wide? What am I going to do? Then I just tossed and served as hard as I could.
Q. Number 19 tonight.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yes.
Q. Steffi Graf has 22. Do those numbers mean anything to you? Do you want to get past 22?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I would love to get to 22. I mean, 19 was very difficult to get to. Took me 33 years to get here, so… I would love to get there. But I have to get to 20 first, and then I have to get to 21. There’s so many wonderful young players coming up, so it will be a very big task. My next goal was just to get to 19. That was my goal. So I didn’t think it would happen this fast, to be honest, but it feels really good.
Q. Can you describe your actual emotions winning your 19th Grand Slam.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, it just felt so good. I mean, I’ve been through so much the past week. I really, really didn’t expect to win. I didn’t expect to be here this long. I was walking down the hall yesterday and I was thinking, Wow, I’m still in the tournament. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to the final here or the semifinal. It’s been a long time coming. I was just really, really elated to have an opportunity to walk out on the final match.
Q. What happened with the hindrance call?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I got too excited and I hit a great serve and Maria hit an even better return. I didn’t expect her to get it back. I said, C’mon, a little too soon. I guess there’s a rule that you can’t do it. So I’m fine with it. I moved on very fast to the next point; just tried to stay as focused as I could.
Q. Has that ever happened to you before?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Do you follow tennis (smiling)?
Q. The fist pump that came after that hindrance point is going viral, the sarcastic, C’mon.
SERENA WILLIAMS: I’m like, C’mon. It just goes to show you I have more fun on the court. I would have never done that three years ago, four years ago. I would have stayed so in the zone, so focused. I’m like, Okay, I’m going to have a little fun with this. I’m really enjoying myself. That’s what I want to do. Every match I want to go out and just enjoy myself. Whether I win or lose, I just want to have fun. So I just kind of made a little sarcasm after that. And I didn’t want to get another hindrance call, so I was really careful not to do that anymore.
Q. Can you describe the way you feel in these matches inside?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, right now in these matches, sometimes I get a little more nervous. Like in the US Open last year, and this one, I was more nervous than I usually am in the Grand Slam finals. Usually I’m just so on it and I feel like I just have to go for it, I go it. Last two ones I’ve been a little nervous. I made some odd errors in the tiebreak that I normally wouldn’t miss because I got a little tight and I didn’t move. You know, I missed some shots. But, yeah, so I think I just have — I was definitely more calm today than I was in the Open by 100%, but I feel like hopefully that will continue on. If I get to another final of a Grand Slam, that I continue to go on.
Q. Maybe you did the longest winner’s speech you have ever done. Any specific reason for that? I was wondering if you prepared the speech before the match?
SERENA WILLIAMS: No, I actually — a month or two ago I thought if I won the Australian Open, there was so much I wanted to do and wanted to say, because it would be special, it would be 19, it would be something amazing. And I had a lot to say. I wanted to thank people. I wanted to thank the crowd, because this crowd here in Australia is really good to me. Like I say, I don’t get that everywhere. I really feel my heart really is here. Also there was other things I wanted to say and motivate people that may not have come from a lot. You can still make it and you can still do it if you just persevere and you believe in yourself. I think that was another good message to get across. Also, like I said, I did an ad for motorneuron disease, MND, and it’s so important to raise awareness for that because anyone can get it. It’s affecting our friends, people on the tour, people that I personally know. I just wanted to address that as well.
Q. Would you like your glass of champagne?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I’m okay for now.
Q. How soon do your eyes refocus and turn to Paris?
SERENA WILLIAMS: When I think about Paris, I don’t think about 20. I just think about winning there. It’s the one slam I don’t have more than two titles on. I only have two there. Sorry. That and Wimbledon I’ve been struggling. Yeah, so I think, okay, now that I got this under my belt. I’m a little more comfortable with my ranking now. Now I can really move. Like I did so bad last year at Roland Garros, and Wimbledon as well. So those are the two I really have my eye on, because I would like to do better at those. And I know I can do better. I’m not going into it not as number 20, but I want to win Roland Garros.
Q. Are you going to schedule differently this year to put more focus on the majors?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I definitely am not going to play as much this year, and I’m just going to go for everything when I do play. But I’m not playing as much. Try to be more focused in every tournament I get into.
Q. Will you continue to play with your new sparring partner, Jonathan?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I loved hitting with Jonathan. We had such a wonderful two weeks here. We really enjoyed it. I have to talk to Sasch. He’s injured right now. We have to figure out how he’s doing. He’s more than keen. He texts me every day. He’s super keen to come back. I’m loyal to a fault, which is going to be awkward, because I love working with Jonathan. He’s so amazing. He’s so funny. He’s French. He helps me he with my French now. I hate to be in this situation.
Q. You mentioned Patrick on court. How has he helped you?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, he’s helped me a great deal. You know, there’s some times when a players doesn’t believe in themselves. Even me, I feel like, Gosh, I’m not going to be able to beat this person. I’m not going to be able to play well. I don’t feel confident in this shot today. I don’t feel confident in that. He really stood up this past two weeks, even hitting and doing things that he’s never done before, just really encouraging and giving me great strategy on the court before every match, wonderful strategies, what to do, what to expect, as well as how to play a better game, not for today but for tomorrow.
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