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After long pursuit, Serena Williams sets record with 23rd Grand Slam title

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There was a great deal at stake for Serena Williams in the Australian Open final on Saturday night, far more than having to push aside her older sister. For Serena, the 6-4, 6-4 win to hoist the Australian Open trophy for a seventh time establishes a brand new record. At 35, she is the only player – man or woman – to win 23 Grand Slam singles titles in the Open Era. “It’s such a great feeling to have 23,” Williams said. “It really feels great. I’ve been chasing it for a really long time. It feels like, really long time. When it got on my radar, I knew I had an opportunity to get there, and I’m here.”

Now that Williams has Steffi Graf in her rear-view mirror – the two were tied at 22 Grand Slam titles since Wimbledon last year – she can look ahead to the next record to break. Australian Margaret Court holds the overall record with 24 Grand Slam titles, an achievement which spans the pre-Open and Open Era. Court was in the crowd watching Serena inch closer to her claim to fame in the game on Saturday night. Williams was also in position to return to the world No. 1 ranking if she won the title. But she had no idea that was in the offing as her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, told her a fib by saying it wasn’t a possibility.

“She trusts me, because I never lie unless it’s for her own good,” said Mouratoglou, laughing. “She’ll forget. Give me a few weeks and she won’t think about anymore. But, actually, I think she’s happy I did it now.” Williams admits she was clueless that she could take back the No. 1 ranking she relinquished to Angelique Kerber when she fell in the U.S. Open semifinals and Kerber went on to win the title. “In the beginning of the tournament, I was like, ‘If I win, will I be No. 1?” Williams said. “(Mouratoglou) said ‘No, no, no.’ Today on the court … I was like, ‘Whoa, really?’”

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