A Booming Serena Williams Keeps Title
By Greg Bishop, New York Times
WIMBLEDON, England — At the end of the Wimbledon women’s singles final Saturday, Serena Williams turned toward her family in the stands. She flashed 10 fingers, then 3 fingers, for a total of 13 — her updated tally of Grand Slam singles titles.
With her 6-3, 6-2 demolition of Vera Zvonareva, Williams accumulated another avalanche of aces, hoisted another trophy and took another step forward among tennis’s greats. Afterward, she confirmed what once seemed obvious, another otherworldly performance notwithstanding.
“I’m totally human,” Williams said.
Williams lingered there on Centre Court at the All England Club. She smiled, pumped her fist, leaned backward, waved and signed autographs, the celebration long and lasting. She said she felt like Frank Sinatra, as if “Fly Me to the Moon” were playing in her head.
The latest trophy marked her fourth Wimbledon singles title and allowed her to pass Billie Jean King for sixth place on the women’s career major singles championships list. In an on-court interview, her smile as wide as the English Channel, Williams said, “Hey, Billie, I got you.”
Two hours later, she considered her place in history, her near decade of dominance. She dodged questions about the future, about how long she would continue, about how many Grand Slam titles she expected to win.
She said she considered her place in tennis history important, but added: “I love my dogs. I love my family. I love going to movies. I love reading. I love going shopping. Like, it’s not on my list to be, you know, this.”
For all the unpredictable results in Wimbledon women’s singles, the tournament ended as most predicted at the beginning of the fortnight. Williams successfully defended her title with striking consistency and superior serving, without dropping a set.
Williams’s tournament unfolded strangely. She said her strokes felt off, especially the first week.
Her sister Venus lost in the quarterfinals, ensuring the first final without both Williamses since 2007. The sisters even suffered a rare doubles loss.
Williams avenged her loss in the 2004 finals, outslugging Maria Sharapova in the fourth round. She beat Li Na and Petra Kvitova to ensure that at least one Williams sister would play in the Wimbledon final for the 10th time in 11 years.
Her sister’s absence only added to the pressure Williams said she felt. But that compared little with the pressure of her serve. She managed to turn that serve into a third person, its own character. She had conversations with her serve. She described her serve’s career.
The day before the final, Williams detailed how her father, Richard, used to end practice with serving sessions. She said that every time her father turned his back, the girls gabbed. When he turned back to the court, they resumed.
Apparently, he watched the court enough, as evidenced by the nine aces Serena Williams collected Saturday, giving her a record 89 for the tournament, 17 more than she smacked last year.
Williams broke Zvonareva three times and never faced break point herself. Zvonareva said Williams’s serve had dual purposes, not only as her most potent shot, but also as a psychological advantage.
Zvonareva said she felt as if she had to hold serve each time, because Williams surely would.
No less an authority than Martina Navratilova later called Williams’s serve the best in the history of women’s tennis.
Even Williams, when later describing her perfect player, selected Rafael Nadal’s speed, Roger Federer’s forehand and her sister’s reach. Of course, she added, “I would keep my serve.”
Zvonareva tried everything, tried to match Williams with power from the baseline, tried slice, tried topspin. Afterward, she said she wished she had played better. But even then, Zvonareva said, the result would probably have been the same.
The inevitable question came midway through her news conference: could Williams realistically be beaten?
“Of course she’s beatable,” Zvonareva said. “She’s a human being. She’s not a machine.” But then she added: “I mean, it’s very difficult to beat her. You have to play your best.”
Next week, Williams will face Kim Clijsters in Belgium in a match that could break the exhibition attendance record of 30,492 that was set by King and Bobby Riggs in 1973.
On Friday, the 28-year-old Williams insisted that she would play in 2011, but in regard to the next decade, she said, “Hopefully, we’ll still be around.”
A day later, she instructed one reporter to “personally take me off and escort me from the court” if at 38 she is still playing. By then, Williams said, she hopes to be relaxing, or “spanking some kids, who knows.”
In an interview on BBC, King said she noticed a renewed commitment from Williams these past two years, which, coupled with her continued stockpiling of championships, indicated to King that Williams would stick around for “a long time.”
If so, then how many major championships will Williams win? She laughed at one questioner who wondered if she would prefer tougher matches, a greater challenge. At this point, it seems, only history will provide it.
Navratilova and Chris Evert won 18 Grand Slam singles titles, a tally Williams could reach, depending on injuries and on how long she wants to continue.
Asked last week if Williams would reach 18, Navratilova smiled and said, “Let her get to 13 first,” but added, “It’s possible, yeah, no doubt.”
Next, Williams heads to the United States Open, the site of her confrontation with a line judge last September. In retrospect, Williams said that episode marked a turning point. “No one’s perfect,” she said.
But over the past two weeks, Williams and her serve came close.