Move over Chris Evert, Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova, because Serena Williams is now the best women's tennis player of all-time. That's right—of all-time.
Williams proved both her resiliency and raw skill (as if she needed to prove her talent) in her U.S. Open victory against Victoria Azarenka, and the victory capped off what very well could be considered the best calendar year of Williams' storied career.
Williams went 67-4 and won eight tournaments, including the French Open and U.S. Open in 2013. Her win on Sunday gives her 17 Grand Slam singles titles, putting her just one behind Evert and Navratilova for the fourth-most all-time.
Getting to No. 17 certainly wasn't easy for Williams. She cruised through the early stages of the tournament, dropping only 16 games and being broken just twice in her first six matches. There was no cruising to be done in her final match against Azarenka, though, as the No. 2 player in the world wouldn't go down without a fight.
Williams served for the match on multiple occasions, but Azarenka showed that Williams is no longer the untouchable star of the women's tennis world. Williams is now somebody who can be challenged and pushed to the brink, but that doesn't mean she's ready to drop her ranking of top women's tennis player in the world.
If anything, her ability to win when at her most vulnerable shows that she is deserving of the best-ever praise. An athlete's ability to win, even when not at his or her best, is what separates the good from the great. Williams set herself beyond even the greats with her win on Sunday.
Williams' fifth U.S. Open title comes 14 years after she won her first in 1999. Her illustrious career at the tournament has spanned three decades, and her ability to win in each of those decades is what sets her as a step ahead of her predecessors.
Plus, she's arguably the sport's best pure athlete. Williams is known for her striking serves and amazing shots, and has dominated many of her opponents on just athleticism alone. Couple that with her ridiculous level of talent, and you've got yourself the total package.
To go ever further, Williams likely still has several quality years ahead of her. At 32, Williams could presumably play for another decade and continue to rack up wins. It'll be difficult to continue her dominance as she ages (especially when considering her vulnerability against Azarenka), but she can continue to win some Grand Slams if she learns to rely on her talent over her athleticism.
Williams is one of the most recognizable athletes of the past two decades, and she can finally be given the distinction of the best women's tennis player of all-time. It seems like it was years in the making, but the U.S. Open champion can now wear it proudly.