She downplayed the Serena Slam — even at the end when she didn’t seem to know she had won it.
“I couldn’t believe it when it was over,” Serena Williams told ESPN after the trophy ceremony.
The delay made the jubilation even sweeter than the thousands of dishes of strawberries served up at The Championships, 2015. Williams had won her sixth Wimbledon, 6-4, 6-4 over Garbiñe Muguruza, and with it her second and self-proclaimed ‘Serena Slam.’
“The Serena Slam has happened,” she said, still in a bit of disbelief. “You guys helped me get through it. Thank you, guys.”
With a stream of records falling all around her that included, above all, her 21st Grand Slam in singles, Williams came face to face with the fact that she’s only one major away from a calendar-year Grand Slam, the biggest honor in tennis.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” she told ESPN.
A second later she looked in the camera and said, “I love you Daddy,” the maturity and might from this woman gone is a snap.
Of course that’s not how she acted on court in her win over No. 20 seed Muguruza. There, Williams showed all her angles of maturity, will, plus an abundance of variety that, in the end, overwhelmed the Spaniard.
“I can’t talk,” Muguruza told Sue Barker of the BBC, in her annual on-court conversation with the finalists. “Congratulations to Serena. [She’s] still showing us she is No. 1.”
Williams’ 21st major puts her one behind Steffi Graf, with 22, and continues her pursuit of the feat Graf achieved in 1988. Graf also won a gold medal at the Olympics that year, making her achievement a ‘Golden Slam.’ If Williams comes through at the U. S. Open and ties Graf, the fact that the German had won gold at the Olympics will mean little.
“I’ve done well in New York so far,” Williams told ESPN. “I’m going to enjoy it.”
Williams now becomes the oldest Grand Slam women’s singles champion of the Open Era. She is 33-years-old and 289 days. Martina Navratilova won Wimbledon in 1990 at 33 years, 263 days. Since turning 30, Williams has won eight Grand Slams, including today’s title. The final wasn’t as straight forward as the scoreline indicates. The debutant Muguruza looked assured and played up-tempo immediately, breaking Williams in her opening service game.
Williams hit three double faults in that opening game compared to 13 total from six previous rounds. Muguruza held on to the advantage until Williams tied the set at 4-games all.
At 5-1 in the second, Williams served for the championship. Muguruza’s energy had ebbed, nerves crackled, and her forehand had completely collapsed. Her first and second serve speeds clocked 10-20 MPH slower than her opponent’s first and second serves. The end was near…but Muguruza turned up her engines.
She broke Williams to love. Scoreline — 5-2. Muguruza then held to 5-3. Williams then stepped up to the baseline, her second try at closing the match. Down she went 0-40. She slowly worked her way to deuce, smacking an ace. Ad-in came with a first serve ace down the tee. Poised at the brink of history, Williams faltered again. The rookie continued to rattle the cage. They were on serve.
A little bit of luck never is turned away by any player, champion or not. Muguruza double faulted and a nasty let cord fell Williams’ way. The break for Williams was inevitable. The victory was Williams’ 28th consecutive Grand Slam match win. She had not lost a match at a major, since losing to Alizé Cornet in the third round of Wimbledon, 2014. Williams is now 43-3 for the year, including all tournaments, and 21-4 in Grand Slam finals.
Patrick Mouratoglou, Williams’ coach, told ESPNW’s Melissa Isaacsson that Serena’s ever-present motivation came, in part, because she knows she’s close to the end of her career. “She realizes what she’s going to lose after, and how great this journey is for every tennis player,” he said. “I think with age she understands the game better. She watches a lot of tennis, a lot of men’s tennis. She’s a more complete player because of that, I think.”
No matter the disappointment Muguruza must feel, she impressed millions. Her bravery on the biggest stage of tennis should guide her to great heights in her career.
On Monday, she will rise to her highest ranking, No. 9. Williams will stay atop the WTA leader board at No. 1. She’s earned it. Williams will celebrate tomorrow evening at the champions’ alongside the winner of the gentlemen’s singles title, either Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer.
Serena, being Serena, came prepared for the fancy occasion.