Sunday, July 8, 2012

Serena and Venus Williams Dominate Wimbledon 2012 and Remind the World Once Again Of Their Greatness


My two favorite athletes in all of sports just happen to be two extraordinary African American women who happen to play tennis. They also happen to be two of the most dominant, iconic, and accomplished athletes in the 21st century. Since Venus and Serena Williams formally entered the virtually lily white world of tennis as professionals in 1997 and 1998 respectively they have been nothing short of spectacular in the riveting excellence and breathtaking quality of their play and have dramatically revolutionized their sport through a highly dynamic combination of speed, power, great technical skill, strategic acumen, steely self discipline, and a ferocious will to win. These qualities fused with two distinct and utterly mesmerizing personalities, and a genuine charisma that endears them to their many fans and supporters throughout the world (including this writer) have resulted in an astonishing record of ground breaking achievements that puts them head and shoulders among all of their many contemporaries in their global sport.

So it was not surprising at all that 15 years after their debuts both Serena and Venus continue to scale heights in the tennis world that would have been simply unthinkable when they arrived on the scene in the late 1990s. In both singles and doubles play as both individuals and as highly respected and even feared partners on the court, the Williams sisters have literally created and led a new revolutionary era in the history of tennis and have inspired thousands of people throughout the United States and the rest of the world by their sterling examples as women and athletes both on and off the court.

Thus the scintillating triumph of the sisters yesterday in this year's Wimbledon grand slam tournament of the past two weeks in London, England in both singles and doubles competition is clearcut evidence once again that when it comes to not only great athletic prowess but as an ongoing, inspiring, and lasting impact on our culture Venus and Serena Williams remain a very powerful and elegant example of what real excellence in sports and life is and means. CONGRATULATIONS SISTERS!


Williams Wins 5th Wimbledon Title
July 7, 2012
New York Times

WIMBLEDON, England — For Serena Williams, the tears came slowly, a release of all the emotions that had accumulated over the last two weeks, the last two months, the last two years.

There was the euphoria of winning her fifth singles title at Wimbledon, tying her older sister Venus, and her 14th in a Grand Slam tournament. The satisfaction of purging a shocking French Open implosion and the aura of vulnerability that followed. The relief that comes with reviving a career on the brink, from cheating death, from outlasting a patient and persistent adversary who on Saturday threatened with a comeback nearly as stirring as Williams’s.

When it was over, when her crisp backhand found open court, Williams fell backward onto the lawn. She stayed there for a few seconds, a grass angel basking in a 6-1, 5-7, 6-2 victory over Agnieszka Radwanska, before climbing through the crowd to meet her entourage in its box. Her appreciation of these moments is greater than it was 13 years ago, when at age 17 she announced her presence at the 1999 United States Open. There is an element of selflessness, of humility, that comes, perhaps, with age and maturity. Now 30, Williams is the first woman in her 30s to capture a Grand Slam since Martina Navratilova won Wimbledon in 1990 at age 33.

“Oh my God, I can’t even describe it,” Williams said during an on-court interview after she turned back Radwanska on a blustery and chilly Centre Court.

When she took to Twitter an hour later, Williams was nearly speechless still: Yeaa, she wrote, with 40 more a’s tacked on. When she appeared an hour after that in the interview room, Williams said that winning had yet to sink in; usually, she said, it does immediately. But it certainly appeared to while she answered a question about her motivation to win the women’s doubles final with Venus, as they did Saturday night.

“I don’t feel any pressure because, I mean, regardless, I won Wimbledon,” Williams said, placing her head on the podium as she unleashed a lengthy, high-pitched cackle.

Since the last time she won Wimbledon, in 2010, Williams has endured two foot operations, caused by a misstep on broken glass; emergency treatment for blood clots in her lungs; an 11-month hiatus from the tour; a demoralizing loss in the 2011 United States Open final; torn ligaments in an Australian Open warm-up tournament; and an outstanding clay-court season that came to a sudden and stunning end with a first-round defeat at the French Open, her earliest exit from a Grand Slam tournament.

Williams wanted to expunge the memory of her loss in Paris. She tried. She could not, at least for a while. Naturally negative is how Williams describes her temperament, a personality trait at odds with the confident, powerful persona she projects on the court.

The loss spilled over into Wimbledon, into sluggish three-set victories against Zheng Jie and Yaroslava Shvedova. Was she headed for another disappointment? Did she have enough mental toughness to advance? Her father and coach, Richard Williams, said she was lucky to have reached the quarterfinals.

“I think Serena feels the pressure; she doesn’t have time on her side,” said Chris Evert, an 18-time Grand Slam singles champion, in a recent interview. “And she wants to take advantage of these opportunities.”

Williams dominated the first set Saturday, winning the first five games as she matched Radwanska on extended baseline rallies, drilling sharp-angled forehands and cross-court backhands, even mixing in the odd drop shot. But when Radwanska, who was dealing with an upper respiratory illness, came back after a short rain delay and showed her mettle in the second set, overcoming a 4-2 deficit, Williams grew anxious, and it was natural to think back to her implosion in Paris, where she first blew a 5-1 lead in the second-set tiebreaker against Virginie Razzano, and then lost the match.

One does not survive a pulmonary embolism without some serious staying power. Winning her first service game of the third set stabilized Williams. Four straight aces at 1-2 emboldened her. A nifty drop shot to break Radwanska at 2-4 empowered her.

“After that,” said Williams, “it was, ‘I can definitely do this.’ ”

It was a disappointing result for Radwanska, seeking to become Poland’s first Grand Slam champion, but her presence in the final solidified her standing as a contender. It also proved that a crafty and creative tactician could handle and counter power and pace — at least for a time.

Williams became the seventh woman in the past seven Grand Slams to win the championship. The field is ever deeper. A revived Maria Sharapova. Angelique Kerber. Petra Kvitova. Victoria Azarenka, who will rise to No. 1 when the rankings are released Monday. Radwanska, who will climb to No. 2. But during these two weeks, none of the last three women could contain Williams.

Williams’s decision to remain in France to work with Patrick Mouratoglou, who owns and operates a tennis academy outside Paris, could be seen as a sign of maturity as well as desperation, a willingness to listen to another voice when for so many years she has stayed loyal to her clan. Those sessions recharged her psyche as much as her body, which absorbed a punishing workload at Wimbledon — a challenging slate of singles matches, in addition to a title run in doubles — without incident.

“I don’t see why not,” Williams said when asked if she could surpass Steffi Graf (22), Navratilova (18) and Evert on the Grand Slam singles title list.

For all the speculation that Williams had passed her prime, it is possible that this championship marks the beginning of a new phase, a return to prominence instead of a culmination. And in that new phase, Williams has assumed more of a supportive role in her relationship with Venus, who is battling an autoimmune disorder.

“I don’t know what I would have if Venus didn’t exist,” Williams said. “I don’t even know if I would own a Grand Slam title or if I would play tennis, because we do everything together.”

Ten of the last 13 Wimbledon singles titles belong to them. Five Wimbledon doubles championships, including their triumph Saturday. More euphoria. More satisfaction. More relief. Another trophy hoisted.

Saturday, July 7, 2012
Serena wins 5th Wimbledon title
Associated Press

WIMBLEDON, England -- For Serena Williams, the low point came in early 2011, when she spent hours laying around her home, overwhelmed by a depressing series of health scares that sent her to the hospital repeatedly and kept her away from tennis for 10 months.

The high point came Saturday on Centre Court at Wimbledon, when Williams dropped down to the grass, hands covering her face. She was all the way back, a Grand Slam champion yet again.

Her serve as good as there is, her grit as good as ever, Williams was dominant at the start and finish, beating Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland 6-1, 5-7, 6-2 to win a fifth championship at the All England Club and 14th major title overall, ending a two-year drought.

After wallowing in her French Open foibles, Serena Williams decided it was time to win. And that's what she did, writes Greg Garber. Story

Serena Williams has fought through injury and illness to return to the winner's circle at Wimbledon. For those who don't think she cares enough about tennis, her emotional response to the win says it all, writes espn's Sandra Harwitt. Story

"I just remember, I was on the couch and I didn't leave the whole day, for two days. I was just over it. I was praying, like, 'I can't take any more. I've endured enough. Let me be able to get through this,'" said Williams, a former No. 1 whose ranking slid to 175th after a fourth-round loss at the All England Club last year, her second tournament back.

"Coming here and winning today is amazing," she said. "It's been an unbelievable journey for me."

Certainly has.

That's why tears flowed during the on-court trophy ceremony. And why Williams squeezed tight during post-victory hugs with her parents and older sister Venus, who has five Wimbledon titles of her own -- meaning that one pair of siblings that learned to play tennis on public courts in Compton, Calif., now accounts for 10 of the past 13 trophies.

They added their fifth Wimbledon doubles championship Saturday night, teaming to beat Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic 7-5, 6-4.

"She hasn't had an easy road. Things have happened in her life that you can't predict or control, so it's hard to be in that situation. Things happen that you didn't deserve," said Venus, who is dealing with an autoimmune disease that can cause fatigue. "For her to fight through that and come back and be a champion. ... It was definitely emotional."

A few days after winning Wimbledon for the fourth time in 2010, Serena Williams cut both feet on broken glass while leaving a restaurant in Germany. She needed two operations on her right foot. Then she got blood clots in her lungs, for which she needed to inject herself with a blood thinner. Those shots led to a pool of blood gathering under her stomach's skin, requiring another procedure.

"That made her realize where her life was, really, and where she really belonged and that she really loved the game," said Williams' mother, Oracene Price. "You never appreciate anything until you almost lose it."

Serena Williams tied sister Venus with her fifth Wimbledon title Saturday, while hitting a tournament-record 102 aces.
Against Radwanska, who was trying to be the first Polish Grand Slam singles champion, Williams was streaky at times, but also superb. She won the first five games and the last five. She compiled a 58-13 landslide of winners. She swatted 17 aces, including four at 114 mph, 107 mph, 115 mph, 111 mph in one marvelous game to pull even at 2-all in the third set. That was part of a momentum-swinging run when Williams claimed 15 of 18 points, and that quartet of aces raised her total for the fortnight to a tournament-record 102, surpassing her own mark of 89 in 2010; it's also more than the top number for any man this year at Wimbledon.

"So many aces," said Radwanska, whose two-week total was 16, "and I couldn't do much about it."

There had been a moment, ever so brief, when it appeared Williams might let Saturday's match slip away. After she breezed through the first set on a day when the wind whipped and the temperature was in the mid-50s, rain arrived, causing a delay of about 20 minutes between sets.

Radwanska, who's been fighting a respiratory illness and blew her nose at a changeover, quickly fell behind 3-1 in the second set. Right there is where she made a stand.

Williams was playing in her 18th major final; Radwanska in her first. Actually, she'd never won a match beyond the fourth round at a Grand Slam tournament until this week. So she acknowledged being "a little bit nervous in the beginning."

But the interruption let her "cool down a little bit," explained Radwanska, who would have risen to No. 1 in the rankings by beating Williams but instead will be No. 2 behind Victoria Azarenka. "When I was going on the court the second time, I just felt like a normal match. Didn't seem like a final anymore, so there was not that much pressure."

Radwanska played her usual steady game, and Williams began making more and more errors. A string of mistakes -- swinging volley into the net, double-fault, backhand long, backhand into the net -- let Radwanska break to even the match at one set apiece. What appeared to be a rather drab final, bereft of any drama, suddenly became interesting.

"She got a little nervous out there, in my opinion. In the second set, I think she might have thought, 'Well, I got this here,'" said Williams' father, Richard.He also suspected his daughter might have been feeling a twinge of self-doubt connected to her quick exit in late May at the French Open against a woman ranked 111th, Williams' only first-round loss in 48 career major tournaments.

Williams' explanation for her dip against Radwanska?
"I just got too anxious," she said, "and I shouldn't have been so anxious."

Probably not.

Making her Paris performance really seem like an aberration, Williams regained control down the stretch. She won a 16-stroke point with a forehand putaway to get to break point, then went up 3-2 by smacking a big return that left Radwanska flailing at a running backhand.

If Williams is mainly known for her powerful serves and groundstrokes -- she produced 23 baseline winners to her opponent's five -- she also showed off a deft touch, the sort of thing in which Radwanska specializes. Ahead 4-2, Williams earned a second break with a well-disguised forehand drop shot, then raised both arms aloft.

"After that, it was: 'I can definitely do this,'" Williams said.

While Monday's rankings will have her listed at No. 4, there's no doubt who is at the top of the game right now. Seeded sixth at the All England Club, Williams beat the women who were No. 2 (Azarenka), No. 3 (Radwanska) and No. 4 (defending champion Petra Kvitova).

At age 30, Williams is the oldest women's singles champion at any major tournament since Martina Navratilova was 33 when she won Wimbledon in 1990.

And Williams sees no end in sight.

Asked Saturday evening what more she could possibly want, she replied: "Are you kidding? The U.S. Open. The Australian Open. The French Open. Wimbledon, 2013."

Seconds later, she declared: "I have never felt better."

July 7, 2012
Williams Wins 5th Wimbledon Title

Serena Williams won her fifth Wimbledon and 14th Grand Slam title with a tricky 6-1, 5-7, 6-2 win Saturday over Agnieszka Radwanska on Centre Court.

Williams, who sustained a life-threatening pulmonary embolism in February 2011, fell on her back with emotion after match point, then ran up into her box to hug family and friends.

It is Williams’ first Grand Slam title since Wimbledon in 2010. The five Wimbledon titles equal her sister’s haul. Serena Williams also became the first woman over 30 to win a Grand Slam title since Martina Navratilova won Wimbledon in 1990, when she was 33.

Serena and Venus Williams win Wimbledon doubles title
July 7, 2012
By The Associated Press

About five hours after Williams won her fifth singles title by beating Agnieszka Radwanska, she and sister Venus were back on Centre Court to beat Czech duo Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka 7-5, 6-4 Saturday in the doubles final.

It was their fifth Wimbledon doubles title together, and came shortly after Venus watched her little sister win the singles final.

"I was definitely inspired by Serena's singles performance," Venus said. "Obviously it's wonderful to play on the court with her. I couldn't have done it without her, so it's great." Both sisters have battled health issues over the last two years, with Venus having been diagnosed with an energy-sapping illness and Serena overcoming blood clots in her lungs and two operations after cutting her feet on glass in 2010.

This was their first doubles tournament together in two years, and they looked as if they hadn't missed a beat.

"She's such a fighter, you never say die," Venus said about her sister. "I don't think either of us believe that we can be defeated by anything. Nothing has defeated us yet, so we're going to keep that track record." Serena was the last woman to win both the singles and doubles titles at Wimbledon, in 2009.

Playing under the closed roof, Venus Williams served out the match less than 15 minutes before the 11 p.m. deadline for the end of play on Centre Court.

Had the match gone to a third set, they probably would have had to come back and finish it off on Sunday.

"I told Venus on the court, it doesn't matter," Serena said. "We weren't really racing the clock, we were just playing our opponents who were playing really tough and really good."

Serena and Venus Williams win 5th Wimbledon doubles title as the sisters show no signs of quitting

Making father Richard Williams proud, Serena and Venus have now combined for 10 of the last 13 Wimbledon titles and 21 majors overall.

JULY 8, 2012,

GLYN KIRK/AFP/GETTYIMAGES Serena Williams and sister Venus (r.) take another Wimbledon doubles title.

Serena (l.) and Venus Williams are still unbeatable when they play at Wimbledon.

WIMBLEDON — It’s an amusing thought: yet another Williams sibling to torment Wimbledon, to hoard the trophies, to defy the English fans at the All England Club who regularly root against this unconventional family.

But Richard Williams, who is expecting another child soon at age 70 with his third wife, Lakeisha, says he’s finished creating tennis stars.
“Never. It’s too much work, too much trouble for everyone,” Williams said. “I got lucky with those two.”

Those two daughters, Serena and Venus, have now combined for 10 of the last 13 Wimbledon titles and 21 majors overall. Once, they spoke about retiring at an early age, moving on with their lives to endeavors such as fashion design and acting. Now they can’t get enough tennis, playing into their 30s.

They were still at it late Saturday night, winning their fifth Wimbledon doubles title and 13th doubles title at a major. They hadn’t played doubles here for a couple of years because of injury and health problems, yet it was not a problem for them at all. They remain practically unbeatable at this event, because their searing serves elicit weak returns to be smashed immediately for volley winners. They defeated Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic in the final, 7-5, 6-4, and beat the local curfew by a few minutes.

The sisters will be back again here soon enough for the Olympics, favored in the doubles. Serena will be the favorite to win another gold in the women’s singles, too. Then it will be on to Flushing for the Open.

“He wanted us to play for him, so in the beginning we played because he wanted us to,” Venus Williams said of her father. “But it became our dream.”

Venus is 32, and fighting Sjogren’s Disease. Serena is 30, recovering from a pulmonary embolism. They play now because they love it, yes, but they also play because it is their way of keeping the whole family together. Richard and Oracene don’t speak to each other anymore, but the parents are both in the players’ box to hug their daughters after victories. Relatives, friends and celebrities populate that crowded box. Centre Court is the family picnic, with Serena and Venus playing hostesses down below. The longer they play like this, the longer the sisters have reason to share the same lives.

Serena Williams is pumped winning the singles title.

“I wouldn’t be doing this without her,” Venus said of Serena, and Serena said the same thing about Venus earlier in the tournament.

Venus may never win another singles title. She hopes for the best, taking solace and inspiration from Serena’s own comeback story. Meanwhile, she can still carry her share of the load on a doubles court. Playing together is more enjoyable than playing against each other, or watching from the seats.

“It’s definitely more fun,” Serena said. “At the same time, the last thing I want to do is let Venus down. In singles, it’s OK if I let myself down. You put so much pressure on yourself.”

Venus has become as much Serena’s coach as a player. She was more jittery than her sister while she watched Serena survive a second-set lapse to beat Agnieszka Radwanska on Saturday for the title.

“It was definitely emotional,” Venus said. “I was so nervous, I felt like I was playing the match, too. I couldn’t. You never miss in the stands. But she was amazing.”

Serena was asked if she ever thought about playing a different sport, assuming her father would allow that. As a child watching the Olympics, she wanted to be a gymnast. Then she got too big and Venus grew too tall for such activities.
“We ended up in the right spot,” Serena said.

The Williamses, together again. A never-ending picnic.