Serena Williams is still in disbelief that she has passed beloved legends Chrissy Evert and Martina Navratolova and their 18 Grand Slam singles tennis titles when she defeated Maria Sharapova to capture her sixth Australian Open championship, the most in the modern era.
“Growing up,” she told the crowd in Rod Laver Arena, “I wasn’t the richest. But I had a rich family in spirit and support and standing here with 19 championships is something I never thought would happen.”
The celebration was delayed just a bit for the perturbed Williams. After slamming a smoking bullet of an ace — or so she thought — Williams glared at the umpire for long second before composing herself and then sending another sizzling shot to the exact same spot to secure her 16th consecutive victory over the 5-time Grand Slam champ Sharapova, finally winning in consecutive sets, 6-3, 7-6 (5).
“I thought, ‘Wow, this is it and I did it and I dropped my racket and I was ready for glory, only to hear let,” she said in an interview with Australian television after the match.
The 2-set tiebreaking win thrusts the jubilant Williams into lone second place behind Steffi Graff with 19 singles grand slam titles. Graf has 22.
Social media was abuzz as the conversation has already shifted to Williams’ place in the history of American female sports.