Saturday, July 4, 2009



Published: July 4, 2009

WIMBLEDON, England — The Wimbledon women’s final had ended anticlimactically on Saturday, and Tony Adamson, the announcer at the All England Club, intoned: “Ladies and Gentlemen. The runner-up. Venus Williams!”

Even for those who had watched the match closely, those words still had an odd ring to them. Wimbledon has long been the Williams sisters’ territory, but it was Venus, not Serena, who had the biggest stake in the place.

Venus had won five singles titles, including the last two. She had won 20 straight singles matches and until Sunday, 34 straight sets. But despite few hints of regime change in the early rounds, this did not turn out to be her year.

Instead, it was her younger sister Serena’s turn to keep the inscribers busy. Serena broke open this often edgy final midway through the second set and then secured her third Wimbledon singles title by breaking Venus’s serve in a tight final game to win, 7-6 (3), 6-2.

“There’s no easy to losing, especially when you’re so close to the crown,” Venus said.

Afterward, Serena was handed the Venus Rosewater Dish, the elegant gold-plated trophy that has long looked (and sounded) just right in Venus’s hands.

“It’s named the Venus, and she always wins it, and it’s just like wow,” Serena told the Centre Court crowd in her meandering postmatch remarks, in which she thanked everyone from her God Jehovah to Nike.

“It hasn’t settled in that I won yet,” Serena said.

She last won here in 2002 and 2003, beating Venus in both finals at a time when she dominated the women’s game: holding, at one imperious stage, all four of the Grand Slam singles titles.

Serena’s victory on Saturday provided the latest confirmation that she is back on another historic run. At age 27, she now holds three of the four major singles titles: Wimbledon, the Australian Open and United States Open. Remarkably, she remains No. 2 in the rankings behind Dinara Safina, who has yet to win a single major.

Over all, Serena has won 11 Grand Slam singles titles: the best total in her family (Venus has seven) and just one behind Billie Jean King, who stands sixth on the career list and was in the Royal Box on Saturday.

“She has such willpower, she’s almost in a state of emergency,” King, said in an interview with BBC television. “I’ve never seen anyone express their willpower as much as Serena Williams on the tennis court, ever.”

Serena’s ferocity, particularly when cornered, will be one of her biggest legacies to the game, along with a sibling rivalry that she now leads, 11-10. But as it turned out, Venus was not Serena’s toughest opponent this year at Wimbledon.

Serena had to save a match point in the third set against Elena Dementieva just to get to the final. And this is now the third time in her career that she has won a Grand Slam singles title after saving a match point along the way. The others came in the Australian Open in 2003 and 2005.

“She almost was out in the semifinals,” Venus said. “She just hung in there long enough and got the win.”

Venus had struggles of her own at Wimbledon this year, and one of the differences on Saturday could well have been the extra bit of predominantly white attire that Venus was sporting on her left knee. She began taping the knee during the second round here, and her father and coach, Richard Williams, who left London before his daughters’ latest final, had said that Venus was in pain earlier in the tournament.

Venus dislikes discussing injuries, of which she has had plenty in her 15-year professional career. She views her health as proprietary information and is also loath to make excuses after defeats. But there were moments during this final when Venus appeared to be favoring her left leg.

But her knee had not been an impediment to victory in the first six rounds.

“I have no complaints from the beginning and no complaints now,” she said of her knee. “Everybody has something they’re dealing with. I just have no complaints. You know, I wish I could have done a few things different here and there in this match. But, you know, it was a close.”

At least the first set was close. With both sisters dominating on their serves and looking edgy with their ground strokes, there were precious few extended rallies. But the plot line improved in the seventh game when Serena had to save two break points before holding.

There was no way for Venus to suspect it yet, but those would be the only break-point opportunities she would have on this afternoon that turned sunny after light rain had fallen shortly before the match began.

Serena later took control of the tie breaker with a forehand winner down the line that gave her a 4-2 lead. She eventually won the set with a topspin backhand lob winner over her taller sister.

In the second set, with Venus struggling to get her toss right, Serena broke her serve for the first time in the sixth game when Venus double faulted. With a 4-2 lead, Serena began swinging more freely, holding serve to get to 5-2 and then finally breaking Venus again to win on her fourth match point.

As soon as Venus’s backhand struck the net, Serena was closing her eyes and dropping to her knees. Six years later, she was a Wimbledon champion again, and she was soon inside the clubhouse and examining a board featuring the very up-to-date list of women’s champions and happily tracing a line with her finger from 2003 to 2009.