Williams wins 4th Wimbledon

Published 11:03 pm Saturday, July 3, 2010

WIMBLEDON, England — Getting set to accept her latest Wimbledon trophy, Serena Williams lifted both arms and held aloft 10 fingers. Then, raising only her right hand, she wiggled three more fingers, bringing the total count to 13.

That’s how many Grand Slam singles titles Williams owns as of Saturday.

“I thought, ’I hope I got the number right,”’ she said. “You know me: I tend to forget.”

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That’s OK, Serena. The way you’re accumulating championships, it’s tough to keep track.

With a superb serve that had other greats of the game gushing, and plenty of offense and defense to back it up, the No. 1-ranked Williams overwhelmed No. 21 Vera Zvonareva of Russia 6-3, 6-2 in Saturday’s final to win her fourth Wimbledon title and, yes, 13th major tournament overall.

That’s the most among active women and gives Williams sole possession of sixth place on the all-time list, breaking a tie with her former U.S. Fed Cup captain, Billie Jean King. Addressing King, who was in the front row of the Royal Box, Williams said: “Hey, Billie, I got you! This is No. 13 for me now. It’s just amazing to able to be among such great people.”

The American did not drop a set over two dominant weeks at the All England Club.

She’s won five of the last eight Grand Slam tournaments, including two in a row at Wimbledon, where she also was champion in 2002-03. Williams and her older sister Venus have won nine of the past 11 titles at the grass-court Grand Slam tournament.

“Everywhere we look, there’s another Wimbledon trophy,” Williams said, rolling her eyes. “I’m, like, ’Ugh, not one of those again.”’

Williams was kidding, of course. Maybe she also was joking when she said Friday that she’d prepare for the final by relaxing and watching the TV show “Desperate Housewives.” In the end, her victory over Zvonareva lasted only slightly longer than an episode — 67 minutes — and was rather short on drama.

Both women hit the ball with plenty of force from the baseline, and both grunted loudly, the noise reverberating through the arena. After 21 minutes, they were tied at 3-all. Zvonareva was hanging in there despite being the second-lowest-ranked woman to play in a Wimbledon final.

Then, turning it on, Williams reeled off eight of the next nine games to seize complete control and add to her collection of championships, which includes five Australian Opens, three U.S. Opens and one French Open. She brings her best when it counts the most: Her only other title of 2010 came at the Australian Open in January; she was sidelined all of February, March and April with a left knee injury.

Margaret Smith Court leads the way with 24 major titles, followed by Steffi Graf with 22, Helen Wills Moody with 19, and Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert with 18 apiece.

So where does Williams rank among the best women’s tennis players through the years?

“Top five,” answered Navratilova, without a moment’s hesitation. “It’s not just about how many Slams you win or how many tournaments you win — it’s just your game overall. And she’s definitely got all the goods. It would have been fun to play her, but at the same time, I’m glad that I didn’t have to.”

Of all her skills, Williams’ serve is the most impressive. Growing up in Compton, Calif., she found practicing serves so boring that she and Venus would chat when their father’s back was turned, then resume hitting balls when he’d check on them.

Navratilova, who watched the final from a front-row seat, called Williams’ serve “astonishing,” the best ever for a woman.

Williams pounded serves at up to 122 mph and hit nine aces Saturday, taking her tournament total to a Wimbledon-record 89, 17 more than the mark she established last year. It’s not simply about speed; Williams varies angles, spins, spots.

“She always changes it,” Zvonareva said.

Williams never faced a break point and won 31 of 33 points when her first serve went in. She double-faulted three times, but followed each of the first two with an ace. Zvonareva also pointed out that because Williams knows she’s successful holding serve, she returns more aggressively.

Indeed, Williams broke Zvonareva three times, including to go up 5-3 by curling a forehand passing winner on the run, then dropping to her right knee and raising a fist.

The second set began with Williams breaking again, when Zvonareva netted three consecutive groundstrokes, then spun around and shrieked. Zvonareva has a reputation for being temperamental — sobbing during points, even — but, at age 25, she says she’s more mature these days. Draping a towel over her head during changeovers to make sure she stayed focused, Zvonareva got past former No. 1s Jelena Jankovic and Kim Clijsters this week en route to her first Grand Slam final.

As Saturday’s match became increasingly lopsided, though, Zvonareva began to unravel. When she double-faulted to fall behind 4-1, she angrily smacked a ball before heading to the sideline. In the next game, Zvonareva slapped her left thigh with a palm and whacked her right thigh with her racket, muttering all the while.

After Williams ended the match with an overhead, Zvonareva plopped down in her chair and wiped away tears with her towel. Later Saturday, Zvonareva bawled while losing the women’s doubles final, too.

Zvonareva and partner Elena Vesnina eliminated the Williams sisters in the quarterfinals. Perhaps that’s why Zvonareva replied, “Of course,” when asked if the younger Williams is beatable.

“She’s a human being. She’s not a machine,” Zvonareva said. “I mean, it’s very difficult to beat her. You have to play your best — but if you do, you can do it.”

Williams wouldn’t allow that. She accumulated a 29-9 edge in winners, a reflection of her fantastic shotmaking and her ability to cover every blade of Centre Court’s grass.

Williams improved to 13-3 in major finals; half of the 16 were against her sister. Zvonareva only once before went as far as the semifinals at any Grand Slam tournament and never was past the fourth round at Wimbledon until this year.

“I did not show my best today, and it’s a bit disappointing, because it’s the final,” Zvonareva said. “You know, you don’t reach the Wimbledon final every day.”

Well, if you’re a Williams, you do reach one nearly every year. Ten of the past 11 women’s Wimbledon finals included at least one of the sisters; they played each other for the title four times.

This year, though, Venus lost in the quarterfinals, and she already was home in Florida before Saturday. So Serena took center stage, and as she walked through the All England Club carrying the champion’s plate, she spun around and kicked up her heels.

“I was really feeling Frank Sinatra-ish — ’Come Fly With Me,’ ’Fly Me To The Moon,”’ she explained. “Old-style dance — that’s what I felt like at the moment.”

The 28-year-old Williams has been criticized in the past for not paying enough attention to her tennis career, for dabbling in acting and clothes design.

It’s clear, however, that she is as good as it gets right now, and could be for some time.

“That’s always been a goal of hers, I guess, to be the best,” said her mother, Oracene Price. “And to not lose. She hates losing.”

That was never much of a concern Saturday.