Career Golden Slam: First Steffi, Now Serena
Published August 04, 2012 12:00
LONDON, England - It was the only thing missing from her legendary career, and with her huge power game in full flow and without hesitation, she made that career even more legendary. Serena Williams crushed Maria Sharapova in the final of the Olympics on Saturday, 60 61, for a Career Golden Grand Slam.
The No.4-seeded Williams unleashed a barrage of winners against the No.3-seeded Sharapova, 24 in total - including 10 aces, five forehand winners and six backhand winners - and kept her unforced errors a lowly seven. It took her only 63 minutes to seal the deal and she sealed that deal emphatically, hitting her ninth and 10th aces on the last two points, then letting out a huge war cry.
"I didn't expect this. I can't even... oh my gosh. I have a gold medal in singles, oh my gosh," an overwhelmed Williams said in her on-court interview moments after winning. "I got the gold. I'm just so happy. I don't know what to do.
"I just feel good about my game. I've practiced so hard. It was time."
After some time to cool down, Williams elaborated on the gold medal match.
"I've never played better," she said. "Playing against Maria you have to be at your best. I knew that. She won the French Open, she never loses this year. She's playing the finals of everything so I knew it was going to be tough."
Williams had put on a similar performance in the semifinals, taking an identical 63 minutes to beat the No.1 seed, Victoria Azarenka, 61 62. In that match she had a whopping 33 winners to just five unforced errors, a +28 differential.
The stats from Williams' victories are plentiful: she has now won 34 of her last 35 matches; she has now won her last 13 matches against Top 5 players, 12 of those wins coming in straight sets; she now has 44 WTA titles, passing Venus Williams for most among active players and now a standalone No.10 all-time.
But the biggest one? She is now just the second woman ever to complete the Career Golden Grand Slam, winning all four Grand Slams and Olympic Gold. The first player to do it was Steffi Graf, a gold medalist at Seoul in 1988.
"It's too much. I never expected gold in singles. I was so happy with my doubles golds. I thought if my career's over I have my gold medal, now I have everything, literally. I have everything there is to win in tennis. Where do I go from here?
"Now I can go to Disneyworld," she added.
Sharapova, who would also have completed a Career Golden Grand Slam if she had won, was disappointed but had a lot of bright sides to her tournament.
"Serena was playing incredibly confident tennis today, particularly considering how windy it was. With every match in the tournament she was playing better and hitting harder," Sharapova said. "There are always things you think you could have done better, but my opponent just played too well today; she was too quick and too powerful. She wasn't making many mistakes either.
"A silver medal means a lot to me, though. It's always disappointing to lose in the final but it's great to get a medal in my first Olympic Games.
"For sure I'll be trying again in Rio. I want that gold medal!"
The bronze medal match was played earlier in the day, with Azarenka beating No.14 seed Maria Kirilenko to bring Belarus its first ever tennis medal, 63 64. There were some nervous moments in the second set, with Azarenka building a 3-0 lead but Kirilenko fighting back to tie it 3-all; but Azarenka broke in the next game and the two held the rest of the way until the World No.1 got bronzed.
"I felt so nervous today because it's not very usual for a tennis player to lose and come back the next day and play," Azarenka said. "It feels like everything came off my shoulders today. It was so incredibly hard but I'm so glad I did it."
It was a special few minutes on Centre Court as Williams, Sharapova and Azarenka received their medals, even more special for Williams as their three national flags were raised into the air with The Star-Spangled Banner playing. But the actual star-spangled banner didn't get to hear the whole song: midway through the US anthem, the US flag detached and blew away in the wind.
Williams had a perfectly good explanation for the flag malfunction. "It was probably trying to come and hug me because it was so happy," she said.