THE FOURTH TIME’S THE CHARM: SERENA WILLIAMS WINS WIMBLEDON



FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Getting ready to accept her latest WIMBLEDON trophy, SERENA WILLIAMS lifted both arms and held 10 fingers aloft. Then, raising only her right hand, she wiggled three more fingers, bringing the total count to 13.

That’s how many GRAND SLAM singles titles she owns as of today.

“I thought, ‘I hope I got the number right,'” she said.

“You know me: I tend to forget.”

With a superb serve that had other greats of the game gushing and plenty of offense and defense to back it up, the #1 ranked SERENA WILLIAMS overwhelmed #21 VERA ZVONAREVA 6 – 3, 6 – 2 in Saturday’s final to win her fourth WIMBLEDON title and, yes, 13th major tournament overall.

That’s the most among active women and gives SERENA sole possession of sixth place on the all time list, breaking a tie with her former U.S. Fed Cup captain BILLIE JEAN KING.

Addressing Ms. King, who was in the front row of the Royal Box, SERENA exclaimed: “Hey, Billie, I got you! This is #13 for me now. It’s just amazing to able to be among such great people.”

SERENA did not drop a set over two dominant weeks at the All England Club.

She’s won five of the last eight GRAND SLAM tournaments, including two in a row at WIMBLEDON, where she also was champion in 2002 – 2003. SERENA and her older sister VENUS have won nine of the past 11 titles at the grass court GRAND SLAM tournament.

“Everywhere we look, there’s another Wimbledon trophy,” SERENA commented, rolling her eyes.

“I’m like, ‘Ugh, not one of those again.'”

She was joking, of course.

Maybe she also was joking when she said Friday that she’d prepare for the final by relaxing and watching the TV show Desperate Housewives. In the end, her victory over Vera Zvonareva lasted only slightly longer than an episode – 67 minutes – and was rather short on drama.

Both women hit the ball with plenty of force from the baseline. After 21 minutes, they were tied at 3 – all. Vera Zvonareva was hanging in there despite being the second lowest ranked woman to ever play in a WIMBLEDON final.

Then, turning it on, SERENA reeled off eight of the next nine games to seize complete control and add to her collection of championships, which includes five AUSTRALIAN OPENS, three U.S. OPENS and one FRENCH OPEN.

She brings her best when it counts the most: Her only other title of 2010 came at the AUSTRALIAN OPEN in January; she was sidelined all of February, March and April with a left knee injury.

MARGARET SMITH COURT leads the way with 24 major titles, followed by STEFFI GRAF with 22, HELEN WILLS MOODY with 19 and MARTINA NAVRATILOVA and CHRIS EVERT with 18 apiece.

So where does SERENA rank among the best women’s tennis players throughout the years?

“Top five,” answered Martina Navratilova, without a moment’s hesitation.

“It’s not just about how many Slams you win or how many tournaments you win – it’s just your game overall. And she’s definitely got all the goods. It would have been fun to play her, but at the same time, I’m glad that I didn’t have to.”

Of all her skills, SERENA’S serve is the most impressive.

Growing up in Compton, California, she found practicing serves so boring that she and VENUS would chat when their father’s back was turned, then resume hitting balls when he’d check on them.

MARTINA, who watched the final from a front row seat, called SERENA’S serve “astonishing,” as in the best ever.

SERENA pounded serves at up to 122 mph and hit nine aces Saturday, taking her tournament total to a WIMBLEDON record 89, 17 more than the mark she established last year. It’s not simply about speed; she varies angles, spins, spots.

“She always changes it,” Vera Zvonareva said.

SERENA never faced a break point and won 31 of 33 points when her first serve went in. She double faulted three times, but followed each of the first two with an ace. Ms. Zvonareva also pointed out that because SERENA knows she’s successful holding serve, she returns more aggressively.

Indeed, SERENA broke VERA ZVONAREVA three times, including to go up 5 – 3 by curling a forehand passing winner on the run, then dropping to her right knee and raising a fist.

The second set began with SERENA breaking again, when Ms. Zvonareva netted three consecutive groundstrokes, then spun around and shrieked. Vera Zvonareva has a reputation for being temperamental, but, in her mid twenties, she claims she’s more mature these days.

Draping a towel over her head during changeovers to make sure she stayed focused, Ms. Zvonareva got past former #1s Jelena Jankovic and Kim Clijsters this week en route to her first GRAND SLAM final.

As Saturday’s match became increasingly lopsided, though, Ms. Zvonareva began to unravel. When she double faulted to fall behind 4 – 1, she angrily smacked a ball before heading to the sideline. In the next game, she slapped her left thigh with a palm and wacked her right thigh with her racket.

Vera Zvonareva and partner Elena Vesnina eliminated the Williams sisters in the quarterfinals. Perhaps that’s why Ms. Zvonareva replied, “Of course,” when asked if the younger Williams is beatable.

“She’s a human being. She’s not a machine. I mean, it’s very difficult to beat her. You have to play your best – but if you do, you can do it.”

SERENA would not allow it.

She accumulated a 29 – 9 edge in winners, a reflection of her fantastic shotmaking and her ability to cover every blade of Centre Court’s grass.

SERENA improved to 13 – 3 in major finals; half of the 16 were against her sister. Vera Zvonareva had only made the semifinals once previously at any GRAND SLAM tournament and never went past the fourth round at WIMBLEDON until this year.

“I did not show my best today and it’s a bit disappointing, because it’s the final,” Ms. Zvonareva remarked.

“You know, you don’t reach the Wimbledon final every day.”

However…

If you’re a Williams, you do reach one nearly every year. Ten of the past 11 women’s WIMBLEDON finals included at least one of the sisters; they played each other for the title four times.

This year, though, VENUS lost in the quarterfinals and she was all ready home in Florida before Saturday.

SERENA took centre stage and as she walked through the All England Club carrying the champion’s plate, she spun around and kicked up her heels.

“I was really feeling Frank Sinatra ish – Come Fly With Me, Fly Me To The Moon,” she explained.

“Old style dance. That’s what I felt like at the moment.”

SERENA WILLIAMS has been criticized in the past for not paying enough attention to her tennis career, for dabbling in acting and fashion design.

It’s clear, however, that she is as good as it gets right now…and could easily be well into the future.

“That’s always been a goal of hers – to be the best,” said her mother ORACENE PRICE.

“And to not lose. She hates losing.”

That was never a realistic concern on Saturday.

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