Venus Wins Fifth Wimbledon Crown
Published July 05, 2008 12:00
LONDON, UK - Neither of them dropped a single set in their first six rounds, and when it came down to the all-Williams final things couldn't have been any closer. Serena Williams kept the pressure on but at the end of each set it was Venus Williams who came through, and this time it was the bigger sister who won, 75 64, to etch her name into the Venus Rosewater Dish once again.
Both of the Williams sisters had relatively smooth paths to Saturday's title match, although a couple of their sets did get complicated. Perhaps their toughest matches came in the semifinals, with No.6 seed Serena fighting off a set point in the second set of a 62 76(5) win over China's Zheng Jie and No.7 seed Venus squandering a break lead in the second set before closing out Russia's Elena Dementieva, 61 76(3). The final fulfilled a collision course of the two greatest grass court players of the last decade.
Serena came out firing, breaking serve in the opening game and holding for 2-0, then forcing Venus into a 0-30 hole in her next service game. But Venus held and broke back in the eighth game to get the match on serve again, and when Serena served at 5-6 it was again Venus who pounced, drawing an error off of a huge crosscourt backhand to get to set point then winning the set off a backhand down the line into the net from her increasingly erratic opponent.
The storyline was similar in the second, except Venus bounced back much faster. Serena broke in the third game but Venus broke back right away, and this time she closed in with Serena serving 4-5, 15-30, chasing down a drop shot and firing a backhand winner to bring up double match point, watching an out-wide ace erase the first but then winning another long rally off a wide Serena backhand.
"On that first match point she hit a serve that was untouchable; of course, that's classic Serena Williams," Venus said. "But on the last point I had a chance at a second serve: the ultimate opportunity. I just stayed tough in that point and she was going for it until the end. When I saw it go wide I thought, 'Oh my God, it's five. Wow.' But I have to say awesome match to Serena. She played awesome and it was really a task to beat her today."
"Venus played great this year," Serena said afterwards. "I've been working really hard and I'm just fighting for everything. We were just glad to be in the finals together again, we hope for it to keep happening. I'm so happy that at least one of us was able to win today. She was a little better today; it didn't work out as I planned. But it's definitely a great celebration for the Williams family."
Perhaps the most intriguing storyline going into the final was how the two had performed in all-Williams Grand Slam finals. Venus won the first one at the 2001 US Open before Serena completely took over, winning their next five - Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open in 2002 and then the Australian Open and Wimbledon in 2003 - to surge out to a 5-1 lead. But those memories didn't seem to factor in Saturday's final, as Venus quietly regained momentum.
"The times I lost she was just unbelievable, so there was not much I could do," Venus said. "Obviously I wanted to try to improve that record, and I didn't want the same trend to keep happening and be down 6-1. So I climbed a tiny little notch up, so it's 2-5. So I'm still behind, but I'm working on it."
Having won Wimbledon in 2000, 2001, 2005 and 2007, 2008 pushes Venus' tally of singles titles at the All-England Club to five, the third-most in the Open Era after Martina Navratilova (who won nine) and Steffi Graf (who won seven). Billie Jean King has six but only four came in the Open Era. With her US Open titles in 2000 and 2001, Venus is also up to seven overall Grand Slam singles titles, just one away from Serena, who leads all active players with eight.
"If I had this achievement at any other tournament it would be awesome, but not nearly the same meaning as here," Venus said. "I think the difference is the prestige of this event. Five is really monumental. Last year I thought four was incredible. I would have been more disappointed about not being able to make the history than not winning the match, if that makes any sense."
The Williams sisters weren't the only players who tore it up on the green lawns of London SW19. Zheng, Tamarine Tanasugarn, Alla Kudryavtseva and Agnieszka Radwanska each knocked out a Top 4 seed in the first four rounds - No.1 Ana Ivanovic, No.2 Jelena Jankovic, No.3 Maria Sharapova and No.4 Svetlana Kuznetsova, respectively - sending shockwaves through the tournament as it became the first Grand Slam in the Open Era to see its Top 4 seeds all bow out before the quarterfinals. Zheng made the most historic run, becoming the first Chinese to beat a reigning world No.1 and, after wins over lower seeds Agnes Szavay and Nicole Vaidisova, the first Chinese to reach a Grand Slam semifinal. The other upset artists also broke barriers: Tanasugarn would become the first Thai to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal, Kudryavtseva earned her first career Top 10 win, and Radwanska's run secured her a spot in the Top 10 of the post-Wimbledon rankings, making her the first Polish player ever to do so.
Other players making the headlines were Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who surprised 2007 finalist Marion Bartoli for her first Top 10 win and would play the second week of a major for the first time; Ai Sugiyama, who contested her 57th consecutive Grand Slam main draw, surpassing the previous all-time record - male or female - that was held by the now retired Wayne Ferreira; and last but definitely not least Dementieva, who, despite being ranked higher than both Williams sisters, was a surprise semifinalist considering she had only been to the quarterfinals of Wimbledon once in her first nine attempts (and lost handily that time).
But for the fifth time in the last nine years the tournament belonged to Venus Williams, whose world-beating serve, glamorous groundstrokes, sharp net play, phenomenal speed and unshakable focus helped her come out on top yet again.
"I can't believe it's five; when you're in the final against Serena Williams, five seems so far away from that first point. It's unbelievable, especially with some of the injuries I've had. It's so rewarding to perform here and to know that every time I come back I have the ultimate chance to play well and make history."