Triumph allows Venus to reflect on bleaker days

Her last appearance in a Wimbledon singles final was in 2003, when she lost for the second year in a row to her younger sister, Serena. Venus, who had an abdominal strain, would not have made it to that final if her half-sister, Yetunde, had not urged her to finish her semi-final against Kim Clijsters after she had left the court for treatment.

Less than two months later, Yetunde, 31, the oldest of five siblings - "our nucleus and our rock" - was shot dead in the Los Angeles suburb of Compton, where Venus and Serena first learned to play tennis on park courts.

"We had so much fun the last year," Venus recalled. "Yetunde was cooking us fried chicken. She made it better than my mom, because my mom wouldn't use salt. We're just happy for the good times."

There were precious few good times for the Williams family in the aftermath of Yetunde's death, only injuries, a loss of form, and speculation that the amazing tennis sisters were moving towards careers outside the game.

Serena may have imagined she had quashed the rumours by winning the Australian Open last January, defeating a wilting Lindsay Davenport in the final.

The whispers persisted, however, and it was left to the 25-year-old Venus to stomp on them the on world's most famous Centre Court with, firstly, an electrifying win against the defending champion Maria Sharapova in the semi-finals, and then with a victor's role against Davenport, the world No 1, in Saturday's incredible final, 4-6, 7-6, 9-7.

To do so, the 14th-seeded Williams first had to save a match point with a hefty backhand drive into a corner of the court when she was down 5-4, 30-40 in the final set. "I hit it all wrong, but it just went in," she said. "Maybe it was just the effort that kept it in."

Of such shots legends are made. Williams subsequently went on to become only the fourth woman in Wimbledon history to come back from match point down to win the singles final. The last was Helen Wills Moody against Helen Jacobs in 1935.

Davenport's chance at match point came after two hours and 11 minutes, when the 29-year-old American was struggling for mobility after treatment to her lower back following the seventh game of the set.

The duel continued until Davenport hit a forehand into the net on Williams's second set point in the 16th game after two hours 45 minutes, which was the longest women's final in Wimbledon history, 17 minutes longer than Margaret Court's win in 1970 against Billie Jean King, a game that ended 14-12, 11-9.

Davenport, as gracious in defeat as she was tenacious on the court, said she did not lose because of injury but because her opponent "played unbelievably every time the chips were down".

The most spectacular point of the match came with Williams serving at 15-30 when 7-6 down, a frantic 25-shot rally that ended with Williams pounding a forehand cross-court drive to deny Davenport two more match points. For a set and a half there was no suggestion of the drama that would unfold. Venus played poorly in the opening set, and her game only came alive after she broke Davenport as the American served for the match at 6-5 in the second set and went on to win the tie-break, 7-4.

None the less, the burgeoning standard of play on both sides of the net and the suspense of the final set convinced Steve Flink, the American author of The 100 Greatest Tennis Matches of the 20th Century, that it would rank in the top 20 in a revised edition incorporating the first five years of the 21st Century. "It was," said Flink, "the best women's final I've seen in 40 years of coming to Wimbledon."

As the messages on Williams's mobile continued to accumulate, she said she was grateful to the people who had stood by her in darker days. "The most annoying part," she said, "was the fact that when you're playing your best, doing your best at whatever it is, so many people want to be on your side.

"But if things get a little tough, or you don't win every match, there's so many people who want to put you down, so many people who thrive on negativity. We were never allowed to say 'can't' at all at our house."

Suggested Topics
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballStriker in talks over £17m move from Manchester United
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
boksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor