This year, Serena Williams won yet another singles major, giving her 18 for her career and making her a cinch for espnW's Impact 25 and ESPN The Magazine's Interview Issue, where she sat down with fellow 18-Slam winner Chris Evert.
Chris Evert: How have you managed to develop such a great friendship with Caroline Wozniacki? Martina Navratilova and I are good friends now, but when we were No. 1 and No. 2 in the world, we really weren't that close.
Serena Williams: I have had a love for Caroline from the day I met her. And then when times were tough for her and for me, we were always there for each other. Then it became texting once and then twice, and now we just text all day, every day. It's just really fun to get to know someone that you are on tour with and travel with, and that knows what you're going through, both on the court and off the court. We talk about how things are different for different players growing up. For me and Venus, not playing junior tennis was good for us. I asked her, "What was it like to play the juniors?" I never knew Junior Wimbledon existed until I was a few years on tour, I'm embarrassed to say. I didn't realize that there was actually a junior event.
Your dad (also Williams' former coach) didn't guide you into junior tennis. Was that something people raised their eyebrows about?
Yes. And now I think if I had to play Junior Wimbledon and Junior French Open and all these tournaments, either I would have been really tired or kind of jaded after a certain amount of years. I would have been like, "Well, I've been doing this for so long." Maybe it's one of the reasons I'm able to play a lot longer, because I started differently.
Do you love to win or hate to lose?
The feeling of winning isn't the same for me as the feeling of losing a match, emotionally. And I think that's one of the reasons why I still play, because if I didn't have a desire to be out there, I wouldn't. I hate to lose a lot.
After a devastating first-round exit in the 2012 French Open, you turned to Patrick Mouratoglou for some coaching, then had a dynamite year in 2013. What did he see in your game?
It wasn't what he saw, it was just what he did. He didn't make me feel like I was changing anything. I think my foundation was strong enough that we just added to it. I was recently watching my old matches on YouTube. I found matches in 2009, 2010 and 2011, and I definitely have to say I think I'm a better player than I was then. I'm smoother. I move better on the court. I'm lighter on the court. My game looks a lot easier, like I'm not trying as hard. It's a lot more effortless.
Going into last year, you said your goal was to make fewer errors. What do you want to change about your game in 2015?
Well, I want to move a lot faster on the court. I want to be more dynamic and just completely awesome out there. And I need to bring my serve back. My serve in 2014 was a little disappointing for me. I want my 2013 serve back, but a better version of that for 2015. I had so many double faults this year: I was hitting, like, seven in a match, and it was driving me insane. When I'm missing, I'm thinking, "Get it in," which is not the right way to think. I am way too much of a perfectionist. I will practice on the court and three hours later I'm doing the same shot without taking a water break. And I'm like, "Serena, please quit" in my head. And then another part of my brain is like, "You've got to get it right." But I made some changes this summer, and in Cincinnati (in August at the Western & Southern Open, which Williams won) I did a ton better. Patrick gave me some great hints, especially on my second serve.
You're 33 now. Do you have days you wake up and it's like, "Oh, I just want to stay in bed"?
For sure I do. But I think that's normal. We play so many matches a year, I'm not going to be ready to play all of them. One or two of those matches I'm going to be like, "I don't want to go." But for me, the long-term picture is "I don't want to go to that particular match," but I definitely want to go to the end of the road. And that's what keeps me going; I'm not ready for it to end.
You are the most famous female athlete in the world right now. And I know you're a private person. Is there a price to pay?
I'm so used to it. And now I embrace it and appreciate it more. When I go out, I'm ready. I remember when everyone wanted your autograph. Now everyone wants a picture. The camera phone is the best thing and the worst thing ever invented. Now I have it down. I wear sleeves because of my arms. That's what I realized gets recognized the fastest, so I always wear something long-sleeved, something really loose and a nice hat.
Interesting. I'll be looking for you with that long shirt.
You won't spot me. My assistant was trying to find me in New York once. And I'm like, "I'm outside." He didn't see me, and he walked right past me. I was just laughing.
Eighteen Grand Slams now. You're in the club. How much further can you go?
Well, it's no secret. I'm going for the gusto. I'm going to try to catch up with Steffi (Graf, who won 22 Grand Slam titles). But right now I'm really focused on 19, which will begin in Australia. Whether I get there or not, I don't know. But I know if I get to 19, the second it happens I will be thinking of 20.
One time in my life I would love to hit a ball with you.
It would be different to play someone who's won 18 grand slams. I don't know how I would feel. Do you want to play, Chrissie? Let's play this weekend so I can feel how it feels.