Nick Bollettieri: Grace, hunger, athleticism... Serena really has got the lot
Sunday 04 July 2010
Holy mackerel! If anyone had the smallest flicker of doubt about how much this title meant to Serena Williams then it was in the first set, eighth game, with Vera Zvonareva serving, break point down.
Serena slams a pass, a winner, and drops to one knee, balls her fist, lets out a guttural scream, and punches the air. It was the breakthrough moment. Her whole demeanour said: "I want this. And now the match is heading my way, baby!"
Serena served out for the set and when Zvonareva was broken in the first game of the second set, it was effectively over. Serena climbs to sixth place on the all-time Slam singles list, with 13 titles now, four of them at Wimbledon to add to five from the Australian Open, three from the US Open and one from the French. That must be one big trophy cabinet.
The only women now ahead of Serena in numbers of Slam singles titles are a roll call of the greatest players to have held a racket: Margaret Court (24), Steffi Graf (22), Helen Wills-Moody (19), Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova (18 each). Serena overtakes Billie Jean King (12), and jeepers she's pleased about it.
Serena had another awesome day serving, and that provided the substantial foundation on which this victory was built. It wasn't all about the serve, by any means, but that serve does warrant some attention because it is, as Navratilova rightly said yesterday, the greatest serve the women's game has ever seen.
Serena hit nine aces in the match, at up to 122mph, to take her tournament total to 89 aces, the most ever by a woman at one Wimbledon. That tally made toast of her own record of 72.
Serena won 94 per cent of her first serve points. That is astonishing, pure "Gee whizz!" territory. Nobody else has those kind of numbers. They put Serena on a whole different level.
Vera's strategy was to get into the net but how could she possibly attack that serve? How could she even come in? She couldn't, and quickly she didn't. You can't. She did everything within her capabilities, and the pair went blow for blow for most of that first set. But there's only so much a girl can do when Serena is serving like that and backing it up with good all-round play.
Serena has that massive physical power as one asset, but there were others on display. She was angling the ball, trying to avoid hitting north-south as much as possible to take Zvonareva out wide. Serena's court coverage was excellent, her movement fluid. To achieve that – to be able to move that frame with such grace – takes an enormous amount of physical fitness. To make it look so easy takes one heck of a lot of time in the gym, believe me.
I've known the Williams sisters since they were little girls, and it's worth repeating: they are the finest female athletes ever, in any sport, in terms of their physical attributes. On the court, they are warriors. Off it, full of grace. And on that subject we must give Vera huge credit for reaching the final and the manner in which she played.
For a long time, she's lived in the shadow of the other Russians, and in the shadow of injuries that threatened her career. At one stage it was so bad that she feared she may never play again. Heck, it tells you something of her journey when she even invites her surgeon to sit in her box.
Her story is an inspiration, that hard work and faith do sometimes have their reward. Yes, she lost, but the salient point is that she reached the final, and was then the best that she could be. That's all you can ask of any student: be the best that you can be. I was also impressed by the eloquence of the post-match speeches on court by both girls. They both thanked their support staff. They acknowledged that many different people help them – players in an individual sport – to achieve what they do. You'd be surprised how many players don't acknowledge the help.
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