The final grand slam of the year gets underway on Monday at the raucous grounds of Flushing Meadows in New York.
Serena Williams says it’s crazy to have reached “Jordan status” after becoming the most successful women’s player in professional tennis history.
Williams dedicated her emotional seventh Australian Open triumph to vanquished sister Venus before elevating herself alongside basketball legend Michael Jordan in American sporting folklore on Saturday night.
The enduring champion upstaged Venus 6-4 6-4 to land not only an unprecedented seventh title at Melbourne Park but also an open-era record 23rd grand slam singles crown.
And there was no containing her joy.
“I finally made it to Jordan status at 23. Honestly, it’s crazy,” Williams said after also eclipsing German great Steffi Graf’s modern-day mark of 22 grand slam titles and regaining the world No.1 ranking she’d relinquished last September to German star Angelique Kerber.
“I knew coming into this that I had a chance to obviously do that and I don’t like talking about records any more. I think that really helps me to be able to relax.”
The living legend’s landmark triumph also matches American swimmer Michael Phelps’ 23 Olympic gold medals and she was quick to praise Venus for her sister’s part in her reaching the symbolic number.
“I would really like to take this moment to congratulate Venus. She is an amazing person,” Serena said.
“There is no way I would be at 23 without her. There is no way I would be at one without her.
“She is my inspiration, she is the only reason I am standing here today and the only reason that the Williams sisters exist.
“Thank you Venus for inspiring me to be the best player that I could be and inspire me to work hard. Every time you won this week I felt like I got a win too.
“I definitely think she will be standing here next year. I don’t like the word ‘comeback’. She has never left. She is such a great champion.”
Among countless other records, Williams – at 35 years and 125 days – also extended her own record as the oldest woman to win a major in the open era.
Margaret Court fittingly had the best seat in the house, front and centre in the President’s Box at Rod Laver Arena, as Williams also drew within one slam of the legendary Australian’s record 24 singles majors with a typically ruthless display.
The superstar siblings were clashing for the ninth time in a grand slam final – but first since 2009 – and this was Serena’s seventh success in the matches that mattered most.
After breaking Venus’s serve in the opening game of the match, Serena banished any suspicions she might go easy on her older sister when she obliterated her racquet after being on the wrong end of a net-cord winner.
The second seed received an automatic code violation for the outburst but swiftly took out her frustrations on Venus with a ferocious forehand return winner the very next point.
To no surprise, Serena steadied to wrap up the opening set with her seventh ace.
With a 20-from-20 record in grand slam finals after taking the first set, Serena had no plans to let up and secured victory in hour and 22 minutes to deny Venus, at 36, her own watershed win – and eighth career major.
After losing last year’s final to Kerber, and then the French Open decider to Garbine Muguruza, Williams now holds two of the four grand slam trophies – Wimbledon and the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup for her emphatic victory on Saturday night.
Venus was as gracious in defeat as Serena was in victory.
“Serena Williams, that’s my little sister guys. Congratulations Serena on No.23. I have been right there with you, some of them I lost right there against you,” she said.
“Yes, that is weird but it is true. But it has been an awesome thing, your win has always been my win, I think that you know that.
“Those times that I couldn’t be there, didn’t get there, you were there.
“I am enormously proud of you. You mean the world to me.”