Everything is Grand for Williams at Wimbledon
london— Serena Williams was in such a competitive trance it made her slow to claim victory, but then she was only threequarters finished with this task she has set for herself, this still unsatisfied business of total, alltime, world domination. For a moment, she was unsure whether she had actually won the Wimbledon title on Saturday. Then she shot her hands upward to a roar of acclamation from the Centre Court crowd.
Williams— and the audience — needed to be sure that Garbine Muguruza, the fierce 21-year-old Spaniard across the net, was really beaten. She was, 6-4, 6-4. “I was so focused, I was like, ‘Is that it?’ ” Williams said.
It was only after the ceremonial plate was in her hands and she thrust it in the air that the realization fully set in: She is now within reach of a rare Grand Slam, a sweep of tennis’s four major championships in the same calendar year. She has already won the 2015 Australian Open and French Open, and with
her Wimbledon victory, only the U.S. Open remains for her to be all-conquering.
“It’s huge,” she said. “It’s really, really, huge, but I haven’t done it yet.”
With 21 major championships overall, Williams’s place in the pantheon of greatest athletes ever is already assured — for that she does not need to complete a Grand Slam, which is just another numerical formality in a career of astonishing scope. This was her fourth straight victory in a major, a so-called “Serena Slam,” and it comes fully 12 years after she first performed the feat. No one else can claim such a breathtaking bookend. Her combination of discontented ambition and physical force, continually reinventing herself with even deeper stamina and bigger game at the age of 33, is unprecedented.
“I’ve learned a lot — that I’m able to do anything,” she said.
And she shows no sign of being satisfied. She does not care to dwell on her place in history, because “If you look back, it’s so easy to become satisfied and complacent,” she said. “That’s one thing I don’t want to have.”
Only three women have completed a calendar sweep of all four major championships: Maureen Connolly Brinker of the United States in 1953, Margaret Court of Australia in 1970 and Steffi-Graf of Germany in 1988. Stronger than ever and with no sign of tiring, it seems inevitable that Williams will approach the record for overall Grand Slam titles held by Court, who won 24 majors, and catch Graf, who won 22.
This was Williams’s sixth victory at Wimbledon alone, where she became the eldest woman in the Open era to win. Her final with Muguruza will enter the long catalogue of matches in which Williams simply mentally and physically overpowered a worthy opponent.
It also will be remembered as a star-making vehicle for Muguruza. “I think I fight all I can fight,” said the thin-waisted, 6-foot-tall Spaniard, who was appearing in her first major final yet led for much of the first set and refused to go easy in the second despite trailing 5-1.
It was a measure of how much Williams wants this historic achievement that she began the match clearly out of sorts and wracked with nerves. She opened with three double faults to drop her serve in the first game. Throughout the afternoon she continued to short-arm first serves into the net tape and sail groundstrokes long or into the alleys, with eight double faults and a scattered, uncharacteristic 15 unforced errors. But if she lacked the clean-hitting superiority of other performances at the All England club this past week, she made up for it with sheer will.
“She finds the way, being so nervous, to serve, to hit winners,” Muguruza said. “She’s world number one. That’s what I saw today.”
It was an important learning experience for Muguruza, who two years ago was not even ranked in the world’s top 100 players. “I learned I have the level,” she said.
Muguruza proved her fearlessness with roundhouse strokes that forced Williams from chalk line to chalk line. But when Williams broke back to even the first set at 4-4 with a low skimmer of a forehand that Muguruza couldn’t handle, the momentum swung. Williams began grabbing the air with her fist and shouting at herself, “Come on!”
When Williams raced out to her 5-1 lead in the second set, breaking serve with another of those low forehand skimmers, it looked like a wipeout. But Muguruza showed so much mettle over the next four games that Williams predicted afterward that she will be a Wimbledon champion one day. “She came out there to win,” Williams said. “She wasn’t out there just to play a final. I think that says a lot about her and her future. She never gave up, literally ever.”
They dueled on opposing baselines, making outstretched shots and desperate retrievals.
The high point of the match came when Williams tried to serve it out at 5-3. Muguruza stunned her with a huge wristing backhand return at an impossible angle that left Williams flatfooted and facing 0-40. Williams fought back with a series of furiously blasted aces and serve winners for a match point. But the Spaniard killed it by burying a forehand cross in the corner — and finally took the game with another line drive forehand that made the place erupt. They were back on serve at 5-4.
But it all led to a weird anticlimax. In the very next game, with Muguruza serving on a second match point, she tried an insideout angle forehand that curled into the alley. Williams stood still, apparently half expecting Muguruza to challenge the call. Silence reigned for a long moment, before the chair umpire called, “Game, set and match.”
“I didn’t even know it was over because she was fighting so hard,” Williams said.
It took only about 10 minutes and a victory lap around the court holding the trophy — which at one point she delightedly balanced on top of her head — for Williams’s thoughts to turn to the U.S. Open. It will be played Aug. 31 through Sept. 13 in New York. In her postmatch news conference, Williams was asked whether she had thought about it yet. Of course she had. “Oh, come on,” she said wryly, signaling that in fact it was already very much on her mind.
“I was peaceful, feeling really good,” she said. “Maybe a little after that, I started thinking about New York.”
Serena Williams serves to GarbineMuguruza during the Wimbledon final Saturday. Williams has won 21 major titles and can finish the calendar Grand Slamat the U.S. Open.