By winning the Australian Open championship on Saturday, Serena Williams has finally eclipsed Steffi Graf’s record for major titles in the Open era. In doing so, she has silenced the few stubborn holdouts who referenced the record book to deny that she is the best there’s ever been.
None of this is to say that Serena is done, or satisfied. Steffi Graf was 30 years old when she retired. And Serena Williams was 35 years old the night she beat her older sister Venus. Serena plans to enjoy this one.
“It’s a great number. I know she would like to have a little more,” said Venus, while Serena conceded that it had sat somewhere at the back of her mind since she was 22.
For two players whose commitment to the game once was questioned at some point in their respective careers, the Williams sisters met with a longevity that could count as staggering.
This 23rd Grand Slam title came 19 years after their second-round meeting in the Australian Open at ages 17 and 16, which Venus Williams won, 7-6 (7-4), 6-1; 15 years after Serena Williams began turning their rivalry with a French Open final win after which Venus Williams joined the photographers capturing her sister; 14 years after their best match, a smashing Australian Open final which Serena Williams won, 7-6 (7-4), 3-6, 6-4; and eight years after their last Grand Slam final together, which was their second of two straight Wimbledon finals together, with one win each.
So is No. 24 — the Margaret Court pre-Open era record — just around the corner? “No,” said Serena. She hasn’t forgotten: it took a year and three tough losses to go from 21 up to 22. “One thing I learned in the past is you have to enjoy it. That’s the beauty of winning Australia, you have a few months to relax”.
On the men’s side of the Australian Open, Roger Federer has increased his all-time men’s record to 18 Slam crowns with a victory against the 14-time major winner Rafael Nadal on Sunday men’s final.