NEW YORK -- No. 1 Serena Williams says she has nothing to prove when she begins her U.S. Open title defense on Monday. Williams, who will open against former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone on Monday, has said she doesn't think she's had the greatest 2013, but at 31, and with 16 Grand Slam titles, including her French Open victory this spring, Williams now says she's playing with house money.
"I don't need to do anything," Williams told reporters during U.S. Open Media Day. "That's the beauty of my career. I don't need to do anything at all. Everything I do from this day forward is a bonus. Actually from yesterday. It doesn't matter. Everything for me is just extra."
Williams comes into the U.S. Open with a career-best eight titles this season, with three of those titles coming on hard courts in Brisbane, Miami, and a few weeks ago in Toronto. If she's able to win her fifth title in New York, she'll be the first woman to successfully defend a U.S. Open title since Kim Clijsters in 2010. She could also clinch the year-end No. 1 ranking if she wins and No. 2 Victoria Azarenka fails to make the final.
But the road to the U.S. Open title may have to go through Azarenka. The two-time Australian Open leads the WTA in winning percentage on hard courts, going 25-1 this season, while Serena follows her at 29-3. Two of those losses have come to Azarenka in hard court finals, most recently in the final of Cincinnati, which saw Azarenka come back to snap Williams' 14-match post-Wimbledon win streak to win the title with a 2-6, 6-2, 7-6 (6) win. Williams says the loss was a blessing in disguise.
"Every time I lose, I get so pumped afterwards and I just feel that way," she said. "I just feel like now I'm ready, now I'm prepared. I almost needed that to take my game to a new level."
After a week of rest, Williams insists she's recovered from her heavy summer schedule. She's already played 64 matches this season, including 15 since Wimbledon, the most she's ever played in that span.
"I feel great," Williams said. "I feel completely recharged. I feel fine. To play more matches now later in my career than sooner, it's interesting how good I feel."