Serena Williams has an advantage over every other woman who has played tennis: She never has had to face her own serve.
Williams, 30, had 13 aces as she won her fourth U.S. Open championship yesterday with a 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 defeat of top-seeded Victoria Azarenka of Belarus. She finished the tournament with 63 aces -- 26 more than any other woman.
Asked to describe what her serve does and why it creates such havoc for opponents, Williams said she doesn’t have a clue.
“I don’t know what it does because I have never faced it,” she said after serving eight aces in her 6-0, 6-0 defeat of the Czech Republic’s Andrea Hlavackova in the fourth round. “And I don’t want to.”
Williams, who entered the tournament at the National Tennis Center in New York as the even-money favorite, earned $1.9 million with yesterday’s victory to push her career winnings to more than $40 million.
The fourth-seeded American won her 15th Grand Slam singles title, putting her fourth on the women’s list since professionals were admitted to tennis in 1968. Steffi Graf leads with 22, while Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova each won 18 singles titles. Margaret Court won 24, claiming 13 before the professional era.
The victory completed a dominating summer that also included a Wimbledon title and a gold medal at last month’s London Olympics. The only other women to accomplish that triple since tennis returned to the Olympics 24 years ago are Graf in 1988 and Venus Williams, Serena’s older sister, in 2000.
“I knew that I could just be a good player and a champion this summer,” Williams told reporters following her defeat of Azarenka. “I never expected to win all these titles.”
Williams, who had not lost a set in the tournament and had won 44 of her 46 service games until getting her serve broken four times by Azarenka, twice came back after falling down by a break in the final set. It was the first three-set U.S. Open women’s final since 1995, when Graf defeated Monica Seles.
Williams, who lost the U.S. Open final last year to Australia’s Samantha Stosur, knelt on the court after winning and said “Oh my God!” seven times to herself before going over to the players’ box for a kiss from her mother. Azarenka, 23, sat in her chair on court with a towel over her head.
“I honestly can’t believe I won,” Williams said during the trophy presentation. “I really was preparing my runner-up speech because I thought, ‘Man, she’s playing so great.’”
The men’s final between defending champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia and third-seeded Andy Murray of Britain is set for today at about 4:30 p.m. It is the fifth straight year the tournament has been extended to a Monday due to bad weather.
The women’s final also was delayed a day. It originally was set for two nights ago, only to be postponed by the threat of severe weather.
Williams followed up her blanking of unseeded Hlavackova with a 6-1, 6-3 quarterfinal win against 12th-seeded Ana Ivanovic of Serbia that took 58 minutes. She said after that match that she planned to “get more focused and serious and start playing Serena tennis in the next couple of rounds.”
In the semifinals, Williams won 32 of 40 points on her serve and never faced a break point against 10th-seeded Sara Errani of Italy.
“She is incredible,” Errani told reporters. “When she plays like this, I think she’s best player in the world.”
Williams, who improved her career record against Azarenka to 10-1, won her first title in New York as a 17-year-old in 1999 -- giving her a record 13 years between her first and last U.S. Open crowns.
“I feel like even though I’m 30, I feel so young and I’ve never felt as fit and more excited and more hungry,” she said last night.
Williams, who turns 31 in 16 days, is the oldest U.S. Open winner since Court won as a 31-year-old in 1973. Since losing in the opening round of the French Open to Virginie Razzano in May, she has gone 26-1 -- with her only loss coming against Angelique Kerber in the quarterfinals in Cincinnati last month.
Williams won 72 of 89 games and never dropped more than three in any set during her run to the gold medal at the London Games. In early July, she captured her fifth Wimbledon title while serving a tournament-record 102 aces.
Williams led all women with her 63 aces in the U.S. Open -- compared with six for Azarenka -- and had a serve of 125 miles per hour (201 kilometers per hour) in the final that was the fastest of the tournament. She tops all women this year in aces (445) as well as winning percentage on serves.
“The serve is definitely her biggest asset, if you look at both of our games it’s the biggest difference,” Azarenka, who will retain her No. 1 world ranking even after the loss, said in a news conference. “For me, she’s the greatest player of all time. She took the game to the next level.”