NEW YORK—A crackling rally escalated into the longest exchange of the match when Serena Williams scalded another shot that left Caroline Wozniacki lunging in vain and gulping deep breaths of air. Running toward a long-desired finish line, Williams unleashed a whirlwind of winners to blow Wozniacki away, 6-3, 6-3, in 75 minutes to capture her sixth U.S. Open championship.

The world No. 1 cleared a major hurdle, capturing her 18th career Grand Slam singles title to equal Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova on a historic list. She now sits behind only Hall of Famers Helen Wills Moody (19 titles), Steffi Graf (22 titles) and Margaret Court (24 titles). The woman in the black-and-white leopard-print dress did it in dominating fashion, roaring through seven matches without surrendering a set to earn a record $4 million payday, joining Evert as the only women to win three consecutive U.S. Open crowns and reign as six-time tournament champions in the Open era.

Wozniacki is training for the New York City marathon; Williams gave her the Flushing Meadows runaround today. Transforming rallies into a series of corner-to-corner sprints for her speedy opponent, Williams commanded the center of the court, hitting 29 winners to her opponent's four—three of which were aces. And yet, she often obliterated Wozniacki's serve, breaking five times.

U.S. Open: S. Williams d. Wozniacki

U.S. Open: S. Williams d. Wozniacki

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A cluster of vocal Wozniacki fans chanted "Carolina! Carolina!", putting a tennis spin on the classic New York "Let's Go Rangers!" cheer. But the 10th seed was out of tune on serve at the start. The 2009 finalist clanked a pair of nervous double faults, then watched Williams dispose of her first serve with the ease of someone taking out the trash. Successive forehand returns gave her the break for a 2-0 lead.

Playing in her fourth straight U.S. Open final, Williams' right arm was soon tightening up as well. Serena inexplicably donated serve twice, littering a pair of double faults as Wozniacki broke back for 2-3.

Five of the first six games were service breaks before Serena restored order, holding at 15 for a 5-2 advantage. At that point, Williams was dictating rallies from the center of the court and Wozniacki was running hard to the edges to extend them. The Dane saved a set point, holding for the first time 36 minutes into the match. But a serve winner down the middle brought Williams to double set point in the very next game. She whipped a backhand down the line and raised a clenched fist, collecting the opening set in 37 minutes. Despite serving just 33 percent, Williams dominated the set, blasting 14 winners to Wozniacki's one.

Playing topspsin cross-court patterns has made Wozniacki one of the most consistent—and predictable—players on the circuit. Her backhand down the line is her kill shot, but she's not nearly as proficient playing her forehand down the line. Williams knows it and pounded cross-court forehands, often moving to where the reply was coming before it arrived and answering authoritatively. To her credit, Wozniacki hung tough, held at love for 3-4 then reached 30-all in the ensuing game. Blistering a 116 M.P.H. body serve followed by a flat cross-court forehand, Williams silenced the uprising for 5-3.

U.S. Open: S. Williams d. Wozniacki

U.S. Open: S. Williams d. Wozniacki

When Williams won that electrifying 26-shot rally in the next game, the men in her box—coach Patrick Mouratoglou, hitting partner Sascha Bajin and trainer Mackie Shilstone—stood simultaneously as Serena raised a clenched fist knowing the end was near. A Wozniacki backhand sailed and Serena fell flat on her back staring up at the sky. It was about the only time she was down all day.

"You're an unbelievable friend and unbelievable champion and you definitely owe drinks later," Wozniacki quipped to Williams afterward, prompting laughter from a capacity crowd that included Andy Roddick, Virginia Wade, actor Robert Redford and director, and sometime Serena practice partner, Spike Lee.

Hall of Famer Billie Jean King conducted the coin toss. Days after Serena won the 2010 Wimbledon crown to capture her 13th career Grand Slam title and pass King for sixth place on the all-time list, her former Fed Cup captain said Serena was on track for the ultimate title.

"I think it's great.  I think her next goal now should be to beat Chris and Martina's 18 singles (majors), then thereafter she can go on to Steffi Graf (22 majors)," King said. "There's no reason Serena Williams shouldn't be the greatest woman player that's ever played."

Fifteen years ago a 17-year-old Serena, white beads popping from her braids like pearls, beat Martina Hingis to win her first Grand Slam title in New York. Set to celebrate her 33rd birthday this month, Serena is already the oldest woman to win the U.S. Open in the Open era and looks like she has plenty of life left in her legs—and passion for the play—to continue a grand journey.