These two tennis deities have built tennis careers on consistently performing at a high level on the largest of stages, which has led to many viewing their careers soon coming to a close since 2010 was the last year each of them had won a Grand Slam.
Until they retire, though, you can never count these 30-year-olds out of a tennis tournament. Never.
Serena Williams has always been known as a powerful tennis player. When it comes to serves and groundstrokes, go no further than the younger of the two Williams’ sisters to see just this.
Yet, with her past few disappointments as she has been ousted by players she shouldn’t be losing to early on in major tournaments, her credibility has begun to spiral downward and the inevitable closing to her career seemed to become a prevalent topic of discussion. There were points in 2011 when it looked as though she couldn’t even move to get to shots not hit directly at her.
Her play at the All England Club put all this to the wayside.
Being the overwhelming favorite, Serena Williams finally looked like Serena Williams as she pounded and gritted her will and way to a 6-1, 5-7, 6-2 victory over Agnieszka Radwanska. This gives Williams her fifth Wimbledon championship (tying her with her sister, Venus Williams) and 14th major overall, most by any woman during her era of dominance.
Even though she lost the second set as the momentum seemed to shift to the young Polish player, it didn’t phase Williams whatsoever.
In any professional sport, the start and finish to a match can have a major impact on the end result. Well, Williams took this to heart Saturday.
Serena jumped out to a huge lead in this match, winning the first five games. What a statement. Since tennis is a sport in which you can’t make up for lost games or sets, staring directly into a 5-0 hole can throw off your mental game. Yet, Radwanska fought back to win the second set.
But then, Williams arrived. More accurately, her aces came out to play. After losing the third game to take a 2-1 deficit in the third set, she strung together four straight aces – a third of the amount of aces Radwanska had the entire tournament – giving her complete control of the crowd and the match at hand. She would go on to match her start by winning the last five games. She took command of these finals at the beginning and at the end, providing her with the sweet taste of Grand Slam victory.
Speaking of aces, Williams didn’t just suddenly find her touch in this last match of the tournament – she has been hammering the ball down her opponent’s throat for two weeks now. With her 17 aces against Radwanska, she now holds the tournament record of 102, outdoing her previous record from 2010 when she had 89. This style might not be the most gracious way to go about playing winning tennis but it has most certainly become Serena’s way to win tennis matches.
With the lack of consistent high-quality play from the women’s side of tennis, this could only be the beginning of another monopolistic run for Williams.
From the time of the U.S. Open in 2008 to Wimbledon in 2010, she won five of her titles in the span of eight tournaments. Now, it might be farfetched to say she might go 0n a run comparable to this stretch at her current age… but why not? Now that she is finally past all the injuries, surgeries and emotions that have held her back the past few years and her footwork is just good enough to compliment her unmatchable strength, she has vaulted herself past all the competition. Unless a young hotshot appears out of nowhere, there isn’t a professional tennis player currently out there that can stop Williams from further bolstering a career comparable with the all-time greats.
The last time Roger Federer won a Major, his wife was pregnant with their soon-to-be twins. Now, the almost 3-year-old girls cheered with Mom as Daddy reminded Great Britain and the world why he might be the best tennis player we have ever seen.
This crowd was craving a win for jolly old Britain since Queen Elizabeth II might be the only Brit to remember the last time the Wimbledon crowd experienced a win for the home team. It has been 76 years since a male British tennis player (Fred Perry, 1936) came away from this tournament a champion. So, since Andy Murray was able to get through his side of the bracket without having to face Rafael Nadal, he had the chance – but don’t forget the stress, too – to finally win his first major after winning zero of nine sets through his first three major finals.
Yet, his opponent had a different kind of pressure. The man that has built a monument of diverse accolades and victories taller and wider than any other player during his generation has added very little over the past two years. In fact, with the recent surge of Novak Djokovic and the constant clay dominance from Nadal, he actually looked to be the third wheel of the men’s tennis Big 3.
Just like Williams, he has built a reputation of winning when it matters most and taking home some Grand Slam trophies every single year (he won at least two of the four Grand Slams four times from 2004-2009). So, in the reactionary sports world we live in today, many began to doubt that the supposedly aging Swiss man and his back had what it takes to make it all the way to the top of a major tournament’s mountain.
He gracefully climbed that mountain.
With stellar footwork, a mixture of drop shots and lobs, and a fluid forehand that won him many break points, Federer easily took down Murray 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 to achieve his seventh title on this grass court, tying him with Pete Sampras and William Renshaw for the record.
This record-building 17th Grand Slam title should finally put to rest any discussion of Rafa – who has 11 of his own – having the ability to surpass him. Nadal’s supremacy in France is a blessing and a curse since he has never been able to translate his assertive play to the other three Grand Slam tournaments.
When you think of Rafael Nadal, you think of playing way behind the baseline and muscling through opponents. When you think of Andy Murray, you think of blistering serves and an inability to succeed during prolonged rallies. This ability of tennis players to have specified strengths can be countered and used against them.
When you think of Federer and what he brings to the tennis court, there isn’t one quality that comes to mind. That’s his strength. He can approach each tennis match with the mentality to beat his opponent in whatever way necessary. Well, and he always brings deadly accurate angles and a composed demeanor to the court – two facets that can’t possibly have a downside.
There hasn’t been one other person in my lifetime to make their respective sport so exquisite. When you get the pleasure of watching this man play tennis, you get more than just a man playing a sport – you get an artist at work. It is as if you are watching John Williams in the act of becoming inspired to write an orchestral piece of music, compose the ins and outs of the work and eventually conduct the song in front of your very own eyes. It is truly a thing of beauty.
So, what have we learned today, folks? Once a champion, always a champion. And this isn’t referring to someone like Andy Roddick who found a way to win one Grand Slam and then fall back into irrelevancy. This is about the heart of a champion. This is about Federer and Williams understanding what it means to truly be a champion and having the intangibles (and tangibles) to win and win big 31 combined times.
The next time the discussion pops up whether or not one of these two or both might be finished winning Grand Slam tournaments, know that they will never be finished until the finish playing – and they both know it.
“I know there’s still more possible,” Federer said.
“I have never felt better,” Williams said.
Well said, champs.
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