Call her your idol. Call her the best ever.
But whatever you call Serena Williams, she distinguished herself today in the ladies singles championship as the top female athlete in the world, winning her 7th Wimbledon crown and tying Steffi Graf with 22 Grand Slam singles titles, a record in the Open Era (since 1968).
“It means a lot obviously,” Serena told Sue Barker of the BBC, after the awards’ presentation. “I put a lot of pressure on myself to get here. Honestly, I’m just really happy to win Wimbledon. It’s crazy.”
Williams had won her 21st major at last year’s Wimbledon and was on the path to win a calendar year Grand Slam and tie Graf as The U. S. Open began last fall. But the mostly unknown ‘doubles specialist’ Roberta Vinci stopped Serena in her tracks during the semifinal. The loss affected Williams until today, when she acted and played with what looked like little to no pressure.
“There’s not much pressure on Serena because she lost in the finals of the Australian Open and Roland Garros,” Patrick Mourtagliou, Serena’s coach, told Wimbledon.com. “There’s less pressure because she hasn’t been doing as well over the last few months. I think she’s ok in terms of pressure. She wants to win a slam for sure.”
This was Williams’ 7th of 8 consecutive major finals. And, it was the sweetest.
“Thank you to god Jehovah. I couldn’t have done it without you,” Serena said on court. “And my dad who is not here. It’s been incredibly difficult trying for it. But it makes the victory even sweeter to know how hard I worked for it.”
The women exchanged a warm hug at the net, following Williams 7-5, 6-3 win. “You’re a great champion,” Kerber told Serena there.
Serena then turned to 15,000 fans on their feet and flashed 22 on her fingers … 2 + 2.
“It’s always an honor to play against you in the finals,” Kerber told the crowd. “It was a great match.”
Indeed it was.
There’s wasn’t a blade of grass untraveled over the one-hour and 22-minute encounter. Angles were sharp. Drop shots subtle. Net play riveting. And, of course, Serena executed serves with precision and speed.
“I haven’t seen Serena Williams serve like this all year,” Chrissie Evert exclaimed, calling the match for ESPN.
Williams served 13 aces to 3 double faults. Kerber served zero aces and one double fault. It wasn’t so much the quantity of aces bounding off the American’s racquet, it was their timing. Kerber had one break point chance the entire match at 3-3 in the second set. Serena dismissed it with an ace at 117 MPH. Then she hit another one at 124 MPH — her 13th. It was a critical hold to 4-3.
“Angelique … I love player her,” Serena said on court. “She brings out the best in me and then she’s wonderful being around.”
To emphasize her dominance on serve, Serena hit three service winners during the last game. Boom. Boom. Boom.
“This court definitely feels like home. I have a doubles match so I’ll be back out here on home,” Williams said on court, smiling as widely as we’ve ever seen.
Williams’ iconic nature reaches beyond the lawns, clay, and hard courts of tennis. She is a cultural phenomena that draws attention and praise from a broad-spectrum of society. Sitting in her box today was Beyonce and husband JayZ. Ellen Degeneres and Portia de Rossi were there, too. Bradley Cooper was on hand, at one point this week. Jack Nicklaus. Barry Gibbs sat behind the Duchess of Cambridge earlier in the week, along with three Beckhams: Dad David, plus sons Cruz and Romeo. Maggie Smith, the Dowager Countess from Downton Abbey, sat proudly. And two ‘real’ queens of the north from Game of Thrones: Sophie Turner and, today, Maisie Williams, watched the best play.
Williams is looked to for political insight, too. She was asked in her press conference if she had followed the events in Dallas on Thursday, where five police officers were gunned down by a sniper, and about the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.
“I feel anyone of my color in particular is of concern,” Williams said, si.com reported. “I do have nephews that I’m thinking, do I have to call them and tell them, ‘don’t go outside’. Also, obviously, violence is not the answer. The shooting in Dallas was very sad. No one deserves to lose their life, doesn’t matter what color they are, where they’re from. We’re all human. We have to learn that we have to love one another. It’s going to take a lot of education and a lot of work to get to that point.”
Serena’s impact on sport history will be the most profound, though. Of her 22 majors, nine were won after she turned 30. Graf earned none in her 30s. This is Williams’ 22nd time as the top seed at a Grand Slam, and her fourth consecutive year seeded number one at Wimbledon.
Serena’s serve has to be the golden key to her continued success, as well. She’d won 81% of first serve points for the six rounds prior to this final. Today she won 88% of her first serve points. There’s not much wriggle room to dethrone her when facing that dominance on a single stroke.
Only three women have beaten beaten Serena in the same major, as well: Martina Hingis (Australian Open, 2001); Justine Henin (U.S. Open, 2007); Kim Clijsters (U. S. Open, 2009). Kerber was on track to beat Serena for a second consecutive time at a major, having taken her out in Melbourne. Well-laid plans and goals don’t come easily to those who attempt to ascend the Williams’ throne.
Congratulations Serena Williams. Well done.