By Laura Amato
Serena Williams is staring down history—again.
The world No. 1 cruised to a second-round victory at the US Open on Thursday night, defeating fellow American Vania King in straight sets, 6-3, 6-3, making quick work of yet another opponent at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Williams’ latest on-court beatdown was also her 306th Grand Slam singles victory, tying her with Martina Navratilova for the most for any woman in history.
Somehow, after everything Williams has accomplished, there is still more history to be made and the 34-year-old is just as determined as ever to notch her name in the tennis record books.
“I knew it was on the horizon,” Williams said. “I knew at Wimbledon that I wanted to get there. Obviously I’m excited about that. Would like to take one more step, several more steps.”
Williams is also seeking her 23rd career major title—a new record for the Open era. She’s currently tied with Steffi Graf atop the list. It’s a marker Williams has been well aware of for some time and—in additon to the singles victories—is something she’s been anxious to accomplish.
“Well, sometimes I don’t even know that I’m hitting these milestones,” Williams said. “But some of them I’m really proud of. Like this one’s kind of cool, to win 306. That’s really a cool milestone.”
Of course, Williams’ dominance has been well-documented and will continue to be, but the star’s reputation went to a completely different level recently when Nike unveiled its “Greatest Athlete Ever” campaign. The ad features Williams’ image on a billboard with the tagline “greatest female athlete ever” and the word “female” crossed out.
Williams said she felt “vindicated that a company so big as Nike can recognize just athletes and not put a sex behind it.”
“I think that’s really important for that young girl that’s growing up,” she added. “She wants to be a great athlete. She wants to be the greatest. She doesn’t want to be only labeled as a female athlete. I don’t think there should be labels. You know, I’m here and I’ve been playing sports and I’m an athlete.”
While Serena was chasing history in Flushing Meadows, her sister Venus also notched her own record-setting victory, defeating Germany’s Julia Goerges, 6-2, 6-3, and advancing to the third round. It was her 70th career US Open victory.
“I really enjoyed those moments today when the crowd was like, ‘Get it back, get it back,’” she said. “That felt nice. You don’t necessarily get that everywhere you go. So playing at home under these circumstances in a big tournament, it feels nice.”
Both Williams sisters faced their fair share of recent on-court struggles, including a surprising first-round exit in the doubles tournament at Rio, but there’s still room for another historic run for the long-time stars in Queens.
And, right now, they’re both just happy to be on the court.
“I‘m grateful that I can still play the game I want to play right now,” Venus said. “As an athlete, as a tennis player, that’s what you want. You want to be out there and play the game you want to play. I’m not at that point yet, and hopefully I’ll be able to play the game I want to play right until the last day that I’m done.”