In May 2006, Chris Evert penned an open letter to Serena Williams, then 24 years of age and owner of seven career Grand Slam titles. Evert was among those who felt the Compton-raised Williams was underachieving, and that a splintered focus (“injuries, pet projects and indifference”) was keeping her from accomplishing all that she could in her sport.
“Do you ever consider your place in history?” asked Evert.
“I wonder whether 20 years from now you might reflect on your career and regret not putting 100 percent of yourself into tennis,” she added. “Just remember that you have in front of you an opportunity of the rarest kind — to become the greatest ever at something.”
Whether or not Evert’s letter registered with Williams on any meaningful level is something we’ll probably never know - Williams has asserted that, if anything, she was flattered that the Hall of Famer would fret over her legacy. Yet in the eight years since Evert’s missive was written, Williams has certainly beefed up her tennis resume. Now at 32, she has added 11 more Slams. Sunday’s one-sided 6-3, 6-3 win over Caroline Wozniacki in Arthur Ashe Stadium leveled her with none other than Evert and Martina Navratilova at 18 career Grand Slams, tied for second on the Open Era list behind only Steffi Graf and her 22 majors.
As it stands, her place in history is looking pretty good.
Sunday’s matchup between close friends got off to a nervy start, both players searching for traction. After Williams held serve to open the match, there were five straight breaks, neither player finding any consistency from the service stripe. If anyone was doing any dictating, it was the No. 1-ranked Williams, who would total 15 winners to 16 unforced errors in taking the first set. Wozniacki, who was competing in her second US Open final - her first since 2009 - managed just one winner.
Wozniacki, the No. 11 seed, had twice taken Williams to three sets this summer, in Montreal and Cincinnati, but had only beaten her once in nine career head-to-heads. That trend would continue on Day 14 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center as Woznacki fell behind again in the second set. Williams settled in and began to run one of the sport’s consummate baseliners from corner to corner. In all, Williams would allow her opponent just one non-ace winner in nailing down her third straight US Open title and her sixth overall.
Appropriately, Evert, along with Navratilova, was there after the match to present an emotional Williams with a special memento to mark her achievement — an 18 karat gold Tiffany & Co. bracelet. Eighteen karats for 18 Slams.