US Open 2014: Serena Williams moving up in the world after conquering nightmare year

Williams delighted to end season on a high and reveals winnings from 18th Slam will go towards building a new home

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The Independent Online

Considering that Serena Williams was $4m (about £2.5m) better off than she had been 24 hours earlier, the spacious Manhattan premises of J P Morgan, one of the world’s leading financial services companies, was an appropriate place for the world No 1 to look to the future today.

“I’m building a house,” Williams said the morning after her crushing victory over Caroline Wozniacki had secured her sixth US Open title and her 18th at Grand Slam level. “It was very helpful that I won because I hadn’t been winning and I was thinking: ‘Let’s shrink it, let’s get rid of these rooms, no master suite here’.”

Williams, who celebrates her 33rd birthday later this month, has always lived under the same roof as her sister Venus, but they are moving out of the home they share in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida into new houses which they are having built.

“I am finally moving away from my sister after 34 or 35 years by the time it’s done,” Williams said. “It’s a good time. I figure that will be my new life. Of course we will live down the street from one another. It will be a new start. I will have a lot of memories from my [current] home. I’m kind of scared, but I’m growing up.

“I’m really excited about it. I have this really cool pool idea. I’ve worked with a wonderful architect in San Francisco because I didn’t want it to be a typical Florida house. I want it to look like the south of France meets northern Italy. I want it to look more European.

“Venus is doing something totally different. She is going really modern. You can really see our personalities through the houses. I just wanted something really fresh: a little trophy area, a nice garden and I have a purse room. I have a bag problem so I decided to go with that. I have a karaoke room too.”

It is probably a good job that Williams has earned nearly $61m (£38m) in prize money in her career, though she pointed out that the tax authorities will again take their share of her latest cheque. “I have a really good uncle that I love a lot,” she smiled. “His name is Uncle Sam. I think I’m going to give him a lot of it.”

Williams was looking a million dollars as she sat behind a table bearing the US Open trophy. She was wearing a body-hugging red dress, but it was not one of the designs she will be showcasing today when her collection goes public at New York Fashion Week.

There had been no wild celebrations the previous night in the wake of her sixth triumph here, just “a simple dinner” with her beaten opponent. Wozniacki, who is one of her closest friends, borrowed Williams’ phone during the evening. When the American woke up in the morning she found a number of unexpected messages on it. “I’ll have to talk to Caroline about that,” she said with a smile.

Williams’ crushing 6-3, 6-3 victory over Wozniacki, whose paltry return of four winners (compared with her opponent’s 29) included three aces, put her level with Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova on 18 Grand Slam singles titles. Only Steffi Graf, with 22, has won more in the Open era.

The 18th arrived a full year after the 17th. Williams, who did not lose a set in winning here this year, admitted she had put “way too much pressure” on herself in the first three Grand Slam tournaments of 2014. As a result she did not reach even the quarter-finals of any of them.

“Those Grand Slams were tough,” she said. “The French Open made me realise that I needed to get better. I worked extremely hard after the French Open. I don’t think I’ve ever spent six hours on court [every day] only to lose at Wimbledon. That was definitely tough.”

Having lost to Alizé Cornet in the third round at Wimbledon, Williams’ stay at the All England Club ended when she had to retire shortly after the start of a doubles match because of a viral illness. Asked what had been going through her mind in the days immediately after her exit from Wimbledon, Williams said: “I’m not quite sure if I was even able to think. I didn’t leave my bed. I didn’t even leave the country until after the finals. I was just trying to get healthy.”

Patrick Mouratoglou, Williams’ coach, said she had shown great humility in the way that she worked so hard after Wimbledon. “I had to find out how to win matches and tournaments again, to beat players who weren’t top-ranked players but were playing really hard against me,” she said. “I had to figure out a way to be better. I had some weaknesses that I had to improve very fast.”

Williams won two of the three tournaments she played in the build-up to the US Open, which she believes was a crucial element in her success. “I think I’m definitely more of a 12-months-a-year player [than I used to be],” she said.

“I feel like the small events definitely help you to be able to win the bigger ones. I was able to win this one, I think, because I played those smaller events. I had those matches I won 7-6 or 7-5 in the third set and those really, really tough sets that I probably would have had here. Who knows if I would have been able to get through them? But I did because of the other tournaments.”

Williams said she had felt less stressed over the last fortnight, though that did not stop her suffering nightmares. “I had so many this week,” she said. “I lost to Victoria [Azarenka] one night in the quarters and it seemed so real. I thought I was out of the tournament. Then I had a dream that I fell and I couldn’t play. I had more dreams this year than my last Slam. They are always negative, always bad.”

The nights may be troubled, but the days get better and better. “I feel the best I’ve ever done,” Williams said. “Physically, every year I feel stronger. It’s the strangest thing. I just feel more fit. I just feel better every year. Thirty is definitely the new 15.”