July 11, 2015
With sporting immortality beckoning, Serena Williams overcame early and late nerves to seal her twenty-first Grand Slam and her sixth Wimbledon title, beating a tearful Garbine Muguruza 6-4, 6-4.
Serena quivered, put her hand over her mouth to take it all in, then jumped for sheer joy, a deserving champion, the ultimate warrior.
By now she may already be thinking about the US Open, knowing that victory there will give her a Calendar Slam and bring her level with the great Steffi Graf on twenty-two majors.
Already she has a second “Serena Slam,” since she now holds every Grand Slam title, having won at Flushing Meadows last year.
It is a remarkable achievement for a woman approaching her 34th birthday, and there seems no reason why she cannot go on to match or even beat Margaret Court’s 24 Grand Slam titles in a less demanding era. Just like Roger Federer, she defies time. At 33 years and 289 days she is the oldest Grand Slam champion of the modern era.
Muguruza gave it everything she had. But those who dared to dream that she could repeat her victory over Williams at the French Open last year were destined to be disappointed, despite encouraging signs early on and an incredible second-set comeback.
Williams had gradually read her game, put out the fire and poured on the agony, until the younger woman seemed to have little or no answer to her power and nowhere to hide. Then, as if refusing to go down without a monumental fight, the best of Muguruza returned to thrill us all.
Serena had kept Muguruza waiting before they walked out onto Centre Court. But if it was a psychological ploy, then it quickly backfired, because the Spaniard settled into the match more quickly.
Williams double-faulted three times in the opening game and was promptly broken. Muguruza consolidated to gain the upper hand, before Serena willed herself back into contention. At 2-3 behind, the American had two break points, only for the underdog to raise her game once more and fight off the threat.
However at 3-4 there was no escape for the Muguruza serve. She saved the first break point but Serena benefited from a fortuitous return to stay in the following rally, which she eventually won. That brought Williams even in games, and it was easy to sense the shift in momentum. It wasn’t long before Garbine was serving to stay in a first set she had led for so long.
Coming under increasing pressure as Serena read her serve with increasing efficiency, Muguruza tried to dig seep and came up with a booming serve. But she couldn’t follow up that ace and faced set point when she double-faulted on deuce.
Summoning her most ferocious game, Williams produced a succession of bludgeoning forehands, the last of which brought no reply from the frustrated twenty-one-year-old. Serena was a set ahead.
It already seemed that Muguruza’s best chance had come and gone, and hopes of a comeback were slim – particularly when Williams began the second set with such a convincing service game.
But Muguruza held to love to end a run of four successive games for the favourite. Garbine’s first recovery didn’t last though, and she was broken again as her serve became too predictable. At 1-3 down, it seemed there was no way back. And for two more games all we could do was to admire the brilliance of surely the greatest player the world has ever seen.
To the delight of the crowd, however, there were several flashes of stunning defiance from Muguruza, who will doubtless win her own first Grand Slam before too long. She battled back to 4-5, as if to underline her arrival in the big time. We were back on serve.
But Serena was not about to be denied with the end in sight, even though she did tighten and allow her opponent to dream again. Ever the fighter, Williams broke one last time to seal her historic victory.
Fighting back the tears, Muguruza said: ‘I enjoyed it a lot. I don’t have words to say how I feel. In Spain we don’t have much grass but I’m going to change things now. Congratulations to Serena. She is still showing us that she is world number one.’
Williams was typically generous too. ‘It feels so good, it has been a little while, winning Wimbledon, and Garbine played so well. Don’t be sad, you’ll be holding this trophy very soon, believe me! I’m just happy it was such a great match.
‘I can’t believe I’m standing here with a Serena Slam, thank you so much to the crowd, it has been unbelievable for so many years to play in this stadium. I’m having so much fun playing…and I’ve won Wimbledon! Oh my gosh!’