Marathon woman Venus ascendant again

Women's final: Williams takes third All England title with exhausting triumph in true test of stamina and strength

Davenport, having missed a match point at 5-4 in a third set which lasted 78 minutes, was destined not to repeat the title she won here six years ago, while Williams has now won three times in the past six years. As a last Davenport forehand rattled into the netting Williams leapt high into the air and after accepting the appropriately-named Venus Rosewater Dish from the Duke of Kent she indulged in more leaps of sheer joy. And who can blame her after the pain and misery she has endured in coming back from long spells of injury and poor form to capture the greatest prize in the women's game as the 14th seed.

Because of the overrunning of the men's semi-final between Andy Roddick and Thomas Johansson, the women's finalists arrived on court 45 minutes behind the scheduled time to a muted reception, since Centre Court spectators were taking a breather or a meal break.

Williams, smart in a white visor, led the way on to the court, which helped to dispel, at least in part, the greyness of a drab afternoon. It was an occasion which called for a spangly presence, someone like the golden-shoed Maria Sharapova. She, alas, had been seen off by Williams in the semi-finals.

The two finalists are old adversaries, with 26 previous matches played, so not only was there little in the way of surprise tactics but not a deal in the way of excitement. Just testing deep groundstrokes from each side of the net, the metronomic rhythm broken when Williams suddenly threw in a pair of double-faults and dropped serve with a wild backhand in the third game.

In a match being conducted almost entirely from the baseline, Williams struggled for anything like the form which had hustled Sharapova out and she suffered another service break to fall 5-2 behind.

As if she had been prodded by an angry relative, Williams woke up to the danger and proceeded to reel off the next nine points and closed the gap to 5-4. The surge was not maintained, however. Errors replaced those sparkling winners. A Williams forehand driven beyond the baseline took Davenport to set point and a forehand service return into the net by Williams clinched the set for the Californian after 33 minutes.

Davenport had worried aloud before the match about the disastrous consequences of "spraying" her shots. She need not have worried, because Williams was a match for her in this department as she struggled to assemble her best tennis in the second set. In the fifth game Williams, again pitched into trouble by a pair of double-faults, faced two break points but squeaked clear of danger with what was clearly a strategy of running Davenport from side to side at speed, an exercise she is not built for and which was to have serious consequences.

With the score locked at 4-4, a Williams serve which landed in the wrong service court but which was still allowed to stand enraged Davenport, who marched up to the British umpire, Gerry Armstrong. First informing that if she were that poor an umpire she would not dare show her face on court. Then the unfortunate Armstrong got both barrels: "You don't have the guts to overrule when you see it out," she said. The unsettling effect of that promptly produced a crisis which almost enveloped Davenport, who double-faulted to go set point down at 4-5. Williams wasted the opening with a forehand error and Davenport was off the hook for the time being.

In a match which was now rivetting by virtue of its wild swings, Davenport broke for a 6-5 lead. Another Williams double-fault paved the way, and then she slipped on the baseline pursuing the break point. Serving for the match, Davenport was broken without managing to rescue a single point. Still on a roll, Williams swept 5-1 ahead in the consequent tie-break, and levelled the match by winning it seven points to four with an emphatic forehand.

The running slog that this final had developed into began to take visible toll on Davenport early in the third set. However, she hung in gamely, relying on Williams to produce one of her dire spells. This duly arrived when Williams struck a forehand wide to be broken for the fourth time. Standing in the entrance hall of glory, Davenport aimed for what would have been a 5-2 lead and the virtual certainty of the title. Instead, she was broken and called for the trainer.

After being treated off court for a back strain, Davenport returned, clearly in pain and distressed. Her only hope was to shorten the points, hit or bust. In keeping with the nature of this final, it was Williams who almost bust, going match point down with the most dismal of double-faults at 4-5. Again she squeaked clear to level at 5-5, but a hobbling Davenport somehow concocted another winning game on serve to prise open the glory gates once more. Again Williams skated within two points of disaster before levelling at 6-6 in a set which would have to be fought to the death rather than ended by another tie-break.

At 6-7 Williams wobbled yet again, two points from oblivion, but she fought back noisily and brilliantly to stay alive. At 7-7 it was Davenport's turn to be pitched into trouble and she failed to escape, broken by a stunning Williams forehand. So, after two hours 40 minutes, Williams served for the championship - and, despite her 10th double-fault, she came through, earning an embrace from her sporting and gallant opponent.

Life and Style

Company reveals $542m investment in start-up building 'a rocket ship for the mind"

Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album