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After 17 major titles, Williams wants to improve

By HOWARD FENDRICH

Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Serena Williams won her first major title at the 1999 U.S. Open, when she was just 17.

She won her 17th at the same site, at age 31.

Given the way she's playing right now, and the way her game keeps evolving, there's every reason to believe that collection will grow some more.

"I'm already thinking about what I could have done better. I think I'm a little crazy in that (way), like something must not be right, because I don't even relish the moment enough," said Williams, who turns 32 on Sept. 26. "I just automatically think: What's next?"

After wasting a big lead in the U.S. Open final Sunday against Victoria Azarenka, Williams put aside all sorts of problems -- including, she acknowledged later, some nerves -- to regroup and regain control. Pulling away down the stretch, the No. 1-seeded Williams beat No. 2 Azarenka 7-5, 6-7 (6), 6-1 for her second consecutive championship at Flushing Meadows.

"When you're always trying to write history -- or join history, in my case -- maybe you just get a little more nervous than you should. I also think it's kind of cool, because it means that it means a lot to you. It means a lot to me, this trophy," Williams said, pointing her right hand at her fifth silver cup from the U.S. Open, "and every single trophy that I have."

She has won four of the past six major tournaments. Her 17 Grand Slam titles are the sixth-most in history for a woman, only one behind Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert, and the same total as the men's record-holder, Roger Federer.

"It feels really good to be in that same league as him," Williams said.

She earned $3.6 million in prize money to become the first woman to surpass $9 million in a season and $50 million in a career.

But that's not what excites her.

"I don't play tennis for the money. I honestly love to play. I love Grand Slams. When I grew up playing tennis in Compton, I just never thought about any of this," Williams said. "I think my dad got me into tennis because of the money, but me being naive and silly, I never thought about it. I just thought, 'I want to win."'

Sure doing a lot of that lately.

Williams is 67-4 with a career-high nine titles this season. Since a first-round loss at the French Open in June 2012, she is 98-5 with 14 titles.

"She's become a better player, a more intense player. Tougher overall," said Patrick Mouratoglou, the French coach who began working with Williams shortly after that defeat in Paris last year. "This year, every time she steps on the court, she's the favorite. Every time. And she's played so many matches with this on her back."