Serena…The Glorious Comeback
Sunday, 08 July 2012 00:00 By Ayo Ositelu Sport – Abroad
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AT 30, American Serena Williams became the oldest woman to win a Grand Slam Ladies Singles title since Czech-turned American Martina Navratilova some 22 years ago, when the sixth seeded but four times former champion defeated third seeded 22 year-old Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland in a truly thrilling Ladies Singles final yesterday on the fabled Centre Court of Wimbledon.

It was Serena’s fifth Singles title at the All-England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, SW19, London, which tied her older sister’s (Venus’s) feat of five Wimbledon Ladies Singles titles.

If the Ladies Doubles partnership of Serena and Venus is successful in its ninth Ladies Doubles final, which was scheduled to follow the Gentlemen’s Doubles yesterday, it would be the amazing African-American sisters’ sixth Ladies Doubles title.

With elder sister Venus, who has been struggling with the diagnosed auto-immune ailment, a disease which has prevented her from being at her best, having exited the tournament in the first round, but was the leading cheerleader in the Players’ Box rooting for their own, Serena, whose form had got better with each round’s match, won the opening set easily at 6-1 in just 36 minutes.

With the American having raced to a 5-0 lead in the first set after breaking the Pole’s serve in the second and fourth games, the sympathetic Centre Court crowd erupted with a thunderous ovation when the badly outplayed Radwanska managed to get into the scoreboard to trail 5-1.You would have thought the Pole had won the match after ending the game with an ace.

In the next game, as if to say to her support team in the stands “no shaking,” Serena clinched the set with a crushing service winner down the T, a weapon which had been a constant feature of her thrashing of one opponent after another en route to yesterday’s final.

When the American, who had thoroughly dominated her seemingly overawed opponent in every aspect of the first set, broke the Pole again in the third game to take a 2-1 lead, every indication pointed towards the match ending as one of the most embarrassingly one-sided finals in Wimbledon history.

The pole had a different idea, as she kept on fighting, until her efforts were rewarded in the eighth game, when she created her very first breakpoint of the biting and dreaded Serena serve after all of 59 minutes of play to level up 4-4. It was only the seventh time the American lost his serve throughout the fortnight.

You know what? Serena appeared to be rattled as a match which had been thoroughly under her control seemed to be slipping away.

And alas! It actually did slip away, when the reinvigorated Radwanska broke the American in the twelfth game to win the set 7-5. Lo and behold! The match had extended to an unlikely third and deciding.

The look on the faces of Team Serena, particularly her older sister Venus, in the stands, said it all. It was nail-biting time.

But then, as it appeared from the body language of Serena, it was just a temporary set back. After breaking the Pole for a 3-2 lead, there was no stopping the American from cruising to a well-deserved victory.

It was a complete turnaround for a player who went into last month’s French Open as a firm favourite to win the title, but who lost in the very first round to French woman Virginie Razzano.

A heart-warming turnaround for a woman, who only a year ago was fighting for her life when she had what doctors call pulmonary embolism, and a resulting surgery.

Serena, The ‘Queen’ Of Aces

Did You Know…

That the tennisworld may not have seen a better serve than that of American Serena Williams, whose serve today is still as intimidating as it was in 1999 when she won the first of her 14 Grand Slam Ladies Singles titles at the US Open in New York?

Thirteen years on, the American’s dreaded serve, like French wine, keeps getting better and better, and it is sometimes not just the number of aces (free points) she serves, but when she serves them.

Against the fourth seeded defending champion Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic in the quarter-final, and world number two Victoria Azarenka of Belarus in the semi-final, Serena literally delivered a free ‘clinic’ on how to win matches with your serve.

She served 37 aces against those two heavy hitters of the ball and two of the best returners of opponents’ serves, 13 against the Czech and a new Wimbledon record 24 against Azarenka. But that is not the point.

Just as when she served the 23 aces (then a new record of aces in one match at Wimbledon) to fend off a stubborn Jie Zheng of China in three tough sets, Serena served a majority of her aces and outright service winners when she needed them the most. She used the aces to save at least 20 breakpoints in these matches, and even more aces which enabled her to come back from many 0-30 situations, not to talk about the numerous game points to finally win very tight service games.

Not satisfied serving a new Wimbledon record of 23 aces against Jie Zheng, she broke her own new record, to hit 24 to brush aside the determined Azarenka’s fierce second set fight back to win 6-3, 7-6 (8-6) to reach her seventh final at Wimbledon, having won four of her previous finals, the latest in 2010.

In six matches before yesterday’s final, Williams had recorded 86 aces and numerous service winners, which in itself is already another new Wimbledon record of aces in one Wimbledon tournament. But even that latest addition to her ever-bulging pedigree did not prevent her from putting up another stunning display of serving ‘bullets’ out there on the Centre Court, a cherished edifice she and her sister Venus have made their own all these years.

In yesterday’s thrilling final, Serena added 18 aces to her record toll, and how she needed all of those morale-shattering aces, especially against a fit-fighting 22 year-old Agnieszka Radwanska, the first Pole since 1939 to make a Grand Slam final, who showed admirable resolve by rallying back from losing the first set 6-1 and was a service break down in the second to extend the match to a deciding third set.

At a point in the third set, Serena served trailing 1-2 in the third set. How did she respond? She served four consecutive breathtaking aces to hold serve to love, which in tennis is called a “golden game,” a rarity at that level of competitive tennis.

Asked to comment on Serena’s serve, tennis legend American John McEnroe, a many times Grand Slam champion – turned influential Tennis TV commentator and analyst said: “I have never seen serving like that before… It was not just the quality and the power, with the fastest of those serves measured at 120 miles per hour, but also the uncanny timing… It is surely the greatest shot the Women’s game has ever seen.”

How would Serena herself describe it (her serve), as a weapon? “Mean,” responded Williams, with a wry smile. “The older I get, the better I feel I serve, and the more I like to hit aces,” she added.

ayo– ositelu@yahoo.com

Author of this article: By Ayo Ositelu

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