US Open: Serena Williams can go second on Grand Slam list in 2014
Last Updated: 09/09/13 10:28am
Williams hails tough opponent
Serena Williams has every chance of moving second in the all-time Women's Grand Slam titles list in 2014 after battling past Victoria Azarenka to claim her fifth US Open title, says Boris Becker.
Williams, 31, bagged her 17th major title to move within five of Open Era leader Steffi Graf and just one behind Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, who have 18 apiece, courtesy of a 7-5 6-7 (6/8) 6-1 victory over Azarenka at a windy Arthur Ashe Stadium.
"Serena is now one Grand Slam away from tying Chris Evert's and Martina Navratilova's record of 18 wins so she has a very good chance in the next year to reach 18 or even 19."
The American showed her mettle by powering through the third set to victory and £2.3m in prize money after squandering a double-break to lose the second set on a tie-break.
Becker - who won the US Open men's title in 1989 - told Sky Sports that Williams' possesses the determination and belief to displace Graf at the top of the all-time Grand Slam standings.
"That's the goal," said Becker. "Realistically she could very well do it because she's in fine form and the competition is not so strong at the moment. She's only 31 years of age and I don't see any problem health-wise; it depends on her inspiration.
"It was an incredible emotional scene at the end - you could see the relief coming through at the end, even if she won the third set convincingly but it looked a little different at the end of the second set.
"I thought she was on the verge of losing it emotionally at the beginning of the third but she had clear messages from her box to keep it together, breathe in and out and find a way to overcome.
"Azarenka should be proud of her performance. She had a 0-30 chance on Serena's serve early in the third set when Serena was still pretty emotional, thinking about the chances she had in the second set, but once Serena got going again she was just unstoppable - she had too much firepower.
"She is now one Grand Slam away from tying Chris Evert's and Martina Navratilova's record of 18 wins so she has a very good chance in the next year to reach 18 or even 19."
After her victory Williams - who earlier in the week had admitted that as favourite the weight of expectation was weighing heavily on her - declared "I have never felt better", adding: "I haven't felt like this in a number of years. I'm excited about the possibilities".
Sky Sports pundit Annabel Croft said that the American clearly not only has the hunger to win more titles but remains resilient on and off court, despite all the hype around her.
"We assume great champions don't feel nerves because they've succeeded so much in their lives, but Serena definitely feels pressure," said Croft.
"That raw emotion that she showed out on the court tells you how much she wants it; it's such a great test of her character.
"She has more money than she ever has to worry about for the rest of her life and so many Grand Slam titles but she is still hungry for more.
"This will only add to her motivation to go out and practice even harder because she'll want to come back in January for the Australian Open and keep nipping away at those history books."
Azarenka reflected ruefully that she'd lost to a "great champion" but Croft said the Belarussian should take plenty of heart from her performance, not least in the way that she put pressure on Williams' serve.
"Azarenka fought so hard and did such a job of making Serena really uncomfortable," said Croft. "I thought she returned exceptionally well, bearing in mind Serena's save wasn't as effective in the very, very difficult windy conditions.
"What she did do was nullify that serve and get a lot of balls back in play and get Serena involved in more drawn out encounters.
"There was one particular end that Serena was really, really struggling with and losing control; she's not used to being put in those positions and she started to unravel a little bit.
"Her forehand side started to become a little shaky and I've never seen her serve such dodgy second serves; that showed you how uncomfortable she was.
"But she did a great job of reasserting herself in the match. The 2-1 game went on for a very long time and was very key and Azarenka's double-faults became costly."
Watch Novak Djokovic take on Rafael Nadal in the US Open Men's Final on Sky Sports 1 from 9.45pm on Monday.