LONDON, England – The talent, the fight, that serving – it was all on display on Centre Court on Saturday, as Serena Williams fought past Agnieszka Radwanska for her fifth Wimbledon title and the 14th Grand Slam title of her career. Perhaps even bigger than all that, though, it was her first Grand Slam triumph since her year-long leave from the game due to injury and illness.
Since returning from a year of physical and health problems the week before Wimbledon last year, Williams had shown flashes – in fact bright flashes – of her former dominance. She won 18 matches in a row during last year’s summer hardcourt season and 17 matches in a row on clay this spring – those streaks brought with them a slew of titles as well. But none at the Grand Slams.
That all changed this fortnight. After easing through her first two rounds, the No.6-seeded Williams was battle-hardened in her next two, edging Zheng Jie and Yaroslava Shvedova, 9-7 and 7-5 in the third sets. And she raised her level even more, taking out No.4 seed Petra Kvitova and No.2 seed Victoria Azarenka in straight sets in the quarters and semis – those wins extended her winning streak against Top 5 players to 10 in a row, all straight sets too.
With Agnieszka Radwanska reaching the final on the other half – the first Pole, male or female, to reach a Grand Slam final in the Open Era – the stage was set for a blockbuster final between Williams, a former No.1, and the current World No.3. But the early stages the match looked nothing like a blockbuster.
Williams was at her best early on, serving up a storm and taking control of the rallies with her big groundstrokes, building a 61 42 lead and steamrolling towards the title. But she got low on steam for a period – a few errors crept into her game, Radwanska started dictating more, and soon Radwanska had won six of the next seven games to take the second set and go up 1-0 in the third.
But the 13-time Grand Slam champion found her range again, breaking away from 2-all in the third with four straight games, and after one last backhand winner dropped to the grass in celebration, a 14-time Grand Slam champion.
“Oh my God, I can’t even describe it,” Williams said in her on-court interview. “I want to thank Jehovah for letting me get this far. I almost didn’t make it a few years ago, but now I’m here again and it’s so worth it. I’m so happy. I’ve dreamed of being here again. It shows if you never give up, you can achieve anything.”
With tears in Radwanska’s eyes, Williams added a little something for the crowd. “Aga was really tough. She played so well – she’s had such a great career and she’s so young, you should give her another round of applause.”
Radwanska will rise from No.3 to No.2 in the rankings now, her first time being in the Top 2 – Azarenka goes from No.2 to No.1, her return to the top ranking.
“I had the opportunity to win, but it just wasn’t my day,” Radwanska said. “But I’m just very happy to be here in the final. I have great memories from here and from 2005 when I won junior Wimbledon. I think I played some great matches here and the crowd gave me so much support. I will try again next year.”
Williams is now tied with sister Venus for third-most Wimbledon titles in the Open Era with five – the two trail only Martina Navratilova, who has nine, and Steffi Graf, who has seven. The 30-year-old is also the first 30-something to win Wimbledon since a 33-year-old Navratilova won her ninth title here in 1990.
Williams blasted 17 aces in the final, bringing her tournament total to 102, an all-time record for women, bettering her own record of 89 from 2010.
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