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With U.S. Open Win, Serena Williams Celebrates 18th Grand Slam


The U.S. Open Men's final is later today, and - when does this ever happen? - not one of the top four men in tennis made that final. The women's final yesterday was a little less surprising. Serena Williams won in straight sets - her 18th Grand Slam title. She was up against one of her closest friends on the tour, and we're going to talk about all this with Courtney Nguyen. She's a contributing tennis writer for Sports Illustrated. Welcome back to the program.

COURTNEY NGUYEN: Hello. Thanks for having me.

INSKEEP: So what does this win mean for Serena?

NGUYEN: Well, it means that the monkey is off her back for the time being. I think that she was choosing number 18, which she has been since she won her 17th major last year at the U.S. Open, you know. The first three majors this year, she just really stumbled short. So there's a pressure of trying to get number 18, catching Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, in the list of, you know, all-time most Slam titles was weighing on her and really kind of forced her - not get nervous or choked, but just really underperform at the majors this year. So she went into New York this year and she told - you know, I don't feel any pressure, you know, I'm really relaxed, which some of us didn't entirely believe. But she went in, and she absolutely dominated the field. Didn't drop a set the entire tournament, and she finally gets number 18 and can now breathe a little bit of relief as she goes into the 2015 season.

INSKEEP: Was there something visible to you watching her on court - about her demeanor or her technique that was different than had been the case in the previous Grand Slam events this year?

NGUYEN: Absolutely. I think mentally she was just better prepared this time around for the U.S. Open. Her last three majors - what's happened is when she got behind the score line in the early rounds, she would start to panic. And you would see that with her, that she would get nervous. She would start to - almost you could see that her mind's start thinking, oh, my gosh, I'm going to lose, in the fourth round of the Australian Open, in the second round of the French Open, in the third round of the Wimbledon. And she didn't really reengage into the match. And there was almost a fatalism about her.

In New York she wasn't entirely tested obviously. She never lost more than three games in any given set this entire tournament. But in all of the lead-up tournaments in North America this summer, she was tested. And she came through with flying colors, and she really - when there were these moments where you thought Serena might blink, she didn't blink. And she was battle tested for New York.

INSKEEP: OK. So let's talk briefly about the men's side here, and it's not like these are unknown players or anything. But I wonder if you've had moments in the press gallery in the last day or two of just reminding each other how to pronounce these guys names.

NGUYEN: (Laughter) Well, they're well-known guys to us in the press gallery. But, yeah, there is a definite surprise seeing Kei Nishikori and Marin Cilic in the Men's Final at the U.S. Open. There's some colleagues who I know who've even joked, you know, If I'm actually going to come in on Monday because their editors are so used to getting a Roger Fedor, a Rafael Nadal, a Novak Djokovic in the final that they're like, you know, my editors actually don't really care about this final right now which is preposterous

INSKEEP: Wait a minute. Isn't it a more interesting story? You got new people here.

NGUYEN: That's what I say. I mean, I'm actually really excited for the men's final. I think that there's something incredibly, obviously compelling when you have two men who are going for what is the biggest win of their careers, and you can't ever really say that about Rafa and Novak and Roger over the course of the, you know, nine years.

I mean, what's five Wimbledon titles versus two Wimbledon titles for Roger Federer, really? So this is a tremendous day, and Kei Nishikori obviously going for history, to become the first Asian man to win a Grand Slam. So it should be very and a great contrast of styles as well.

INSKEEP: Courtney Nguyen, thanks for taking with us.

NGUYEN: No problem. Thank you.

INSKEEP: She's co-hosted of the tennis podcast "No Challenges Remaining" and also writes for Sports Illustrated. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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