Vegan tennis superstar, Serena Williams, won her fifth U.S. Open Championship on Sunday. She beat out Victoria Azarenka in three sets – her first three-setter in the tournament – though it didn’t come easy.
This is Williams’ 17th Grand Slam singles title, making her one title shy of Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova (another vegan) on the all-time leaders list.
“When you’re always trying to write history, or join history in my case, maybe you just get a little more nervous than you should,” she said. “I got a little uptight.”
The blustering wind was a factor all evening. Williams’ groundstrokes were inconsistent, sometimes missing by feet when she normally misses by inches – if at all. Whether it was the windy conditions or her nerves, the tennis star appeared rattled.
Down a set and two breaks, Azarenka came back to even the match at a set apiece in a second set tiebreak.
“Vika’s such a great opponent; she’s such a fighter,” Williams said after the match. “It was never over until match point.”
Williams called the wind “unbelievable.” Several times on Sunday her shots went long, and each time she threw her hands up in the air. When down 6-4 in the tiebreak, Williams threw her racket to the ground in frustration.
“I thought, ‘This is outrageous that I’m still out here,’ because I had had a great opportunity to win already,” she said. “So I thought — you know what? — I just have to relax, calm down, and play smarter tennis.”
The third set proved to be a little easier for Williams. Azarenka said, “From the first point, the tension, the battle, the determination, it was raising. Really, you know, kind of like boiling water. I fought as hard as I could. But I lost to a great champion.” She also went on to say that it was special to play someone who may become the greatest female tennis player of all time. This year’s match was similar to last year’s, in which Williams defeated Azarenka in another three-set nail-biter. “I’m not going to lie, it hurts bad,” Azarenka said, adding that she has grown as a player and that this year’s final felt nothing like last year’s.
For Williams, this title did feel different. It significantly affected her place in tennis history. She’s now higher on the all-time major championship lists and is tied with men’s record-holder Roger Federer, who also has 17 majors. Williams smiled and said it was an honor to be tied with him.
She had this to say when asked if the title helps when looking back at the level of success she has this year:
“Absolutely. I felt almost disappointed with my year, to be honest. I felt like, yeah, I won the French Open, but I wasn’t happy with my performances in the other two Slams. … I definitely feel a lot better with at least a second Grand Slam under my belt this year.”
For her win on Sunday, plus the $1 million bonus for winning the US Open Series, Williams took home a record $3.6 million.