To move up in the history books, Serena Williams had to put her friendship with Caroline Wozniacki aside while they dealt with the small matter of the U.S. Open championship.
Williams, 32, and Wozniacki, 24, have bonded in recent years and supported each other during trying times, such as Wozniacki's highly publicized breakup with golfer Rory McIlroy earlier this year and Williams's bout with injuries in 2011.
Yet when it comes to tennis, Williams is all business and she proved it yet again by ruthlessly dispatching Wozniacki, 6-3, 6-3, in one hour and 15 minutes to win her third straight U.S. Open title, her sixth overall and her 18th career major, tying her with legends Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova for fourth on the all-time list.
After Wozniacki sailed a backhand long on match point, Williams lay on her back behind the baseline and began crying in celebration.
"It is a pleasure to win my first Grand Slam here and it's No. 18, so I'm really emotional," Williams said on court. "I couldn't ask to do it at a better place."
"Congratulations, Serena," said Wozniacki, who remains in pursuit of her first Grand Slam title. "You really deserved it today. You played better than me. You're an unbelievable champion. You're an inspiration to me both on and off the court. You're an unbelievable friend and you definitely owe drinks later."
Williams has now won 21 straight matches in Flushing Meadows, where she first won her first major title in 1999 at 17. She improved to 18-4 in Grand Slam finals and also became the first woman to three-peat at the U.S. Open since Evert won four straight from 1975 to 1978.
On top of her $3 million winner's purse, Serena also picked up a $1 million bonus for winning the U.S. Open Series Bonus Challenge. Evert and Navratilova also presented her with a Tiffany bracelet.
Margaret Court-Smith holds the all-time women's record with 24 majors and Steffi Graf won 22. Williams seems within striking distance of both despite the fact she turns 33 this month.
The win was especially meaningful for Williams, who failed to get past the fourth round in each of the three previous Grand Slams this year.
"It was a wonderful finish, I couldn't have thought of any better way," Williams said. "Caroline knows the struglge that I've been through, we've been texting almost every day. She's such a nice a person and a great friend. I know you're going to be winning soon, maybe in Australia."
After both lost early at the French Open, Williams and Wozniacki spent time together in Miami and attended Game 6 of the NBA Finals.
"Serena is a fun girl," Wozniacki said. "She's so nice to hang out with. Always makes me laugh and makes everyone around her laugh. Definitely a very inspiring person to be around."
As soon as the U.S. Open draw came out, the two friends began plotting a potential meeting in the final. It took seeds 2 through 9 all being eliminated along the way, but the two friends did end up tangling for the title.
"I was just glad we weren't on the same side of the draw this tournament," Williams said. "Of course we were like, 'That would be great if we could see each other in the final,' because we both, you know, hadn't had the greatest Grand Slam year. We were just excited to be there."
Williams and Wozniacki will pick up their friendship Tuesday when Wozniacki supports Williams as she hosts her first Home Shopping Network show during Fashion Week.
In November, Williams will have Wozniacki's back when her friend runs in the New York City Marathon.
"I thought it was great," Williams said of her friend's decision to enter the race. "I thought maybe I could run the first 5k with her at best. But you know, I'm not a long-distance runner at all. I'm definitely more of a sprinter. The long distance has never been my thing."
But winning major tournament titles remains Williams's thing.
Follow Adam Zagoria on Twitter @AdamZagoria for coverage throughout the U.S. Open.