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Serena Williams Carves Her Place Along Side the Elites with Her 13th Major

Undisputedly, Serena Williams adores the spotlight and Wimbledon is the Oscars of the tennis stage.  In the finals at the All England Club,  defending champion Williams overpowered Vera Zvonareva, the 21st seed, 6-3,6-2 to win her fourth Wimbledon trophy and her thirteenth major overall surpassing the great Billie Jean King.

Zvonareva was making her debut in the finals at a major and Williams did not rely on first timer jitters to knock out her opponent.  In 2004, an intrepid teenage newcomer seeded 13th, Maria Sharapova stunned world number one Williams to take the Wimbledon title.  From the very first game, Serena demonstrated that she had learned her lesson.  With a backhand down the line winner, Williams held at love to open the match.  Showing no nervousness, Zvonareva carried her first game easily.  Despite throwing in two double faults and being pushed to deuce the next couple of games, Serena guarded serve to stay ahead 3-2.  When Zvonareva’s forehand up the line landed out of play, Williams had her first break point.  However, Zvonareva forced the miscues from Serena to level the set at 3 a piece. After Serena had no trouble guarding serve, Zvonareva double faulted on game point for deuce.  With a nice lob, Serena obtained another mistake from Zvonareva for her second break point of the game.  With an incredible running forehand up the line winner, Serena broke for 5-3.  Then, on her third set point, Serena caused Zvonareva to flub another forehand to pocket the set.

Under pressure, Zvonareva’s troubles multiplied in the second set.  By dumping a backhand crosscourt into the net, Serena earned a break point the first game.  When Zvonareva’s forehand missed its destination, Serena took the initial game.  Subsequently, with a backhand volley winner, Serena consolidated for a 2-0 edge.  From that point on, Serena never removed her foot from the accelerator.  With another smoking running forehand, Serena provoked a forehand miscue from Zvonareva for double break point in the fifth game.  Although Zvonareva saved those two, she sent another forehand into the net giving Serena a third chance.  This time Williams did not have to strike the ball, by double faulting, Zvonareva gifted her a 4-1 lead.  The remainder of the match, Serena surrendered just one point on her serve and with a love game to capture the championship.

After the match, Zvonareva had nothing but praise for her rival “you’re a great player and a great champion … you’ve shown great determination throughout the week”.  The Russian conceded “I’m a little disappointed . . . [but] Serena did not allow me to show my best”.  Zvonareva could not manufacture one break point.  Williams connected on 66% of her first serves and won 94% of those points. In addition, Serena did not loose a set on as she claimed the title.

Since the pain is still fresh, Zvonareva said it’s hard to see the positives. But the Russian admitted that when she reflects in a couple of hours, she will have a better perspective.  After all, “I’ve been dreaming of playing Wimbledon since I was a kid”.  Considering the hardship that Zvonareva has gone through the last year with her ankle injury, “I was doubting that I was going to ever play”.  Zvonareva expressed her gratitude to the people who have stuck by her and aided her to arrive at this moment including her surgeon who was present. Indeed, for Zvonareva, there’s a ton to be proud of.

Serena also had some kind words for her counterpart, knowing herself how difficult it is to return from injury.  Serena stated that Zvonareva “defines what a champion is, never giving up”.  Moreover, Serena cited that everyone of the Wimbledon titles is special, she was ecstatic that she has moved up to sixth on the all time majors’ list ahead of King saying “I got you Billie”.

The fact that a Russian advanced to the finals was not unusual, but the name was.  Although Zvonareva has one title this year, Pattaya City, and was a finalist in Charleston, she had not gone further than the second round at her last four tournaments including the French Open and Eastbourne on grass.  The somewhat emotionally explosive Zvonareva kept her wits about her as she progressed through the draw. This metamorphosis permitted her to come back in the quarterfinals after losing the first set to Kim Clijsters, her first victory in six tries. Then, in the semifinals, after again dropping the initial set, Zvonareva pulled out the win against Bulgarian Tvestana Pironkova who had ousted five time champion, Venus Williams. A former number 5 player in February 2009, Zvonareva will rejoin the top ten with her finalist status at Wimbledon.

Another name which made a mark this fortnight is Petra Kvitova.  The Czech player in the quarterfinals climbed out of a 4-0 double break deficit and salvaged five match points before sealing a 8-6 triumph in the third set against Kaia Kanepi to get her maiden semifinal berth at a major.  The next round, Kvitova was defeated by Serena in two tough sets.

Serena is almost a sure bet when it comes to the finals at a major and improves her record to 13-3.  Other than Sharapova, sister Venus is the only person who has gotten the better of Serena in that situation.  Serena turns 29 this September. While Steffi Graff’s 22 majors and all time leader Margaret Court’s 24 may be far reaching, if Serena keeps injury at bay gunning for Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert’s 18 majors is not impossible.

Steely Serena has been a constant the last couple of years in a women’s game where many have climbed to the top only to find themselves heading in the other direction.  Since the start of this century, the Williams sisters have been an immovable force at Wimbledon.  With the beginning of a new decade, the buzz these last two weeks had been whether their reign was at its end. At least for now, Serena has assured that a William has hoisted the Venus Rosewater trophy in the 2010’s.

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