”I thought it was a great story for me to sing that last night,” she said Monday. ”I really felt the words. I really, really felt those words.”
Survival is rallying when two points away from losing the final to top-ranked Victoria Azarenka earlier that evening. Survival, even more fittingly, is coming all the way back from the health problems that kept her from competing for 10 months in 2010-11.
Survival is getting through a U.S. Open with no tirades at officials as in her last two trips to Flushing Meadows. The site of her first major championship 13 years ago started to induce more dread than nostalgia.
”My best memory, then after that it just went downhill,” Williams said. ”From line calls that were completely outrageous to more line calls that were outrageous. Calls of hindrance that was even more outrageous. It’s been a love and then hate, hate, hate, hate relationship.
”It was good to get back yesterday. I don’t feel completely comfortable still; you never know what’s going to happen. But I do feel much better about the place.”
A few weeks before her 31st birthday, Williams earned her 15th Grand Slam title – and she sounds hungrier than ever to rack up more. Karaoke aside, she wasn’t talking about relaxing after a draining summer of winning Wimbledon and an Olympic gold medal.
”For whatever reason I still feel motivated, like I should go out tomorrow and go running or something,” Williams said.
A typical training day consists of 2 hours on the court, 2 hours in the gym, 3 hours of dancing and an hour of stretching.
”So many people on tour are like, ‘Oh, you just show up and you win matches.’ I just smile and I let them believe that,” Williams told reporters. ”The fact of the matter is I probably work harder than anyone else on the WTA Tour or else I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you guys.”
All that means ”I don’t have a life, especially lately.” And that’s OK.
After Maria Sharapova revealed during the Open that her engagement to basketball player Sasha Vujacic was off, Williams let slip that she, too, recently went through a breakup.
The relationship ended last winter, she said Monday, insisting, ”I don’t remember his name.”
”If I’m in a relationship, I’m fine; I do well. But I feel like when I’m out, I’m angry and I do even better,” Williams said with a laugh. ”I don’t know what’s better for me. It’s a win-win situation.”
Everything seems like a win-win lately. Williams beat Azarenka 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 even though ”I felt down the whole match,” considering the first set ended so quickly and her opponent controlled much of the second and third.
Big sister Venus yelled from her box to move her feet and get her energy back.
”I think either I got too confident or too relaxed,” Serena said. ”I stopped moving my feet. My energy was low. It was strange for a final for me to play so lackadaisical. It wasn’t me. Then I started making errors.”
Williams celebrated until 3 a.m. Monday, then set her alarm for 5:15. She took a cat nap in the green room at ”CBS This Morning” while movie director James Cameron was talking.
Williams is now three Grand Slam titles from tying Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert at No. 4 on the all-time list. Told that Navratilova joked on Twitter ”you are catching me and Chris, and I don’t like it,” Williams giddily said she’d retweet it.
Coach Patrick Mouratoglou, who has been working with Williams since her first-round loss at the French Open, has told her she should stop ignoring records.
”Since I plan on playing for a long time, definitely plausible,” Williams said of catching those greats. ”I have to make sure I stay healthy and stay positive and stay calm.
”And if I never won another Grand Slam, I’ve had a fabulous career, a historic career.”