SERENA Williams has extra motivation to win her 17th grand slam singles title at Wimbledon – equalling Roger Federer.
The American reached 16 with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Maria Sharapova in the French Open final on Saturday afternoon, ending her 11-year wait for a second title at Roland Garros.
Williams remains two slam titles behind Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, who are her next targets on the all-time women’s list.
Of current players, only Federer, who leads the men’s list with 17, is ahead of her, and that may not be the case for much longer. The pair both turn 32 later this year, but while Federer’s powers appear to be waning, Williams has never been more dominant, winning three of the last four grand slams and only losing three singles matches in the last 12 months.
The 31-year-old thought she had already drawn level with Federer courtesy of her victory in Paris, and now has her sights set on a sixth Wimbledon title.
She said: “I thought Roger had 16 but he has 17, so I was like, ‘Honestly Roger, you have to win this much’. I guess he does and I’m happy for him obviously. It just keeps me going. It would be cool if I could be even with him.
“How awesome would it be if I could do it at Wimbledon. But the competition’s really tough. It’s not going to be easy for me. I’m going to have to get really serious about my game and be really focused to ever catch Roger Federer.”
Williams has had more downs than ups in Paris, from being jeered in 2003 to last year’s shock first-round defeat, but this year has been overwhelmingly positive.
She is coached by Frenchman Patrick Mouratoglou and has an apartment in Paris, and has earned the support of the tough Roland Garros crowd by speaking French in her on-court interviews.
Williams believes feeling so at home in Paris has helped her regain the title after such a gap, saying: “I think so.
“If anything it’s helped me win the crowd because I really love it here. The city is so pretty. You look at the Eiffel Tower and it feels surreal – you see it on TV but now I see it every day. It’s really cool.”
Williams is not about to become a full-time Parisian any time soon, though, saying: “I’m the most American person you’ll meet. “I didn’t realise that until I was in France. Everyone’s like, ‘You’re so American,’ and I’m like, ‘Really?’ You can spot me a mile away – that’s the American.
“I’m definitely most comfortable in Palm Beach.”
While Williams will head home to Florida before crossing the Atlantic again for Wimbledon, Sharapova must put behind her the disappointment of losing her title and a 13th consecutive defeat by Williams.
Not since 2004 has the Russian got the better of the other titan of the women’s game, but she feels she is getting closer, taking a set off Williams in Miami in March and pushing her close at the weekend.
“I can sit here and say that I feel like I’m moving in the right direction in terms of when I’m playing against her,” said Sharapova.
“Some of the results against her last year were not so good. But the match in Miami and the match here, I think I’m doing a few more right things than maybe I have done in the past, yet obviously not consistent enough.”
Sharapova heads to London in decent spirits, saying: “Getting to the Roland Garros final is not too shabby, so I’d say that’s a positive.
“Coming back as a defending champion, I know it’s never easy to come back with that title, so I’m happy that I was able to produce good tennis within these last two weeks and come to that stage.”