NEW YORK - Serena Williams flung her racket aside and jumped for joy, looking like someone who had just won her first Grand Slam title.
Nope. It sure had been a while, though.
Displaying the talent and tenacity that helped her dominate tennis earlier in the decade, Williams outlasted Jelena Jankovic 6-4, 7-5 Sunday night in a thrill-a-minute match chock full of marvelous strokes and momentum swings to win her third U.S. Open championship and ninth Grand Slam title.
Four times a single point from heading to a third set, Williams was simply relentless. She took the final four games.
It was Williams' first triumph at Flushing Meadows since 2002, and it guaranteed that the American will lead the rankings Monday for the first time since August 2003 - the longest gap between stints at No. 1 for a woman.
Jankovic was in that spot for one week last month and would have returned there by winning a title match that was postponed from Saturday night because of Tropical Storm Hanna.
As good as the second-seeded Jankovic is at retrieving balls and extending points, Williams can do that with the best of them, too, leading to point after point lasting more than a dozen shots as both women scurried around Arthur Ashe Stadium, their sneakers squeaking loudly.
Both sent close-range shots directly at the other.
But the difference in strength was clear: Repeatedly after those lengthy exchanges, Jankovic was left shaking her racket hand, trying to lessen the sting.
On the match's very first point, Williams drove a backhand winner with such force, such ferocity, that she sent one of her earrings flying.