x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Serena takes Venus' throne

Serena Williams lands her third Wimbledon title in fine style and swipes at the world rankings system.

Serena Williams falls to the ground after beating her sister Venus on Centre Court.
Serena Williams falls to the ground after beating her sister Venus on Centre Court.

LONDON // Serena Williams dethroned her big sister Venus as the Wimbledon champion to become holder of three of the world's four grand slams. Ludicrously, the brilliant American cannot be officially described as the world's best player because of the way the women's ranking system is structured. That hollow honour is held by Russia's Dinara Safina, who has been over-rewarded for tremendous consistency on the WTA circuit. When it comes to winning majors though, Safina is yet to capture one; she is not fit to be spoken of in the same breath as Serena. An impressive 7-6, 6-2 victory on the Centre Court raised Serena's grand slam haul to 11, easily the best of the the crop of women's players, and she has won them at all four principal venues - Melbourne Park, Roland Garros, Flushing Meadows as well as her three at the All England Club including this one. Serena needed no prompting to have another go at the computerised rankings system. "I think if you hold three grand slams maybe you should be No 1, but not on the WTA Tour obviously, so my motivation is maybe just to win another grand slam and stay No 2, I guess." Then to the amusement of her inquisitors, she added: "I think Dinara did a great job to get to No 1 - she won at Rome and Madrid." Serena was determined to keep her comments light-hearted, however, as she savoured another magical moment in her career which was witnessed from the Royal Box by two of her most illustrious American predecessors Billie Jean King and the Czech-born Martina Navratilova.

"They were great champions and it is an honour for me to be mentioned alongside those people," she said. "Billie Jean is my idol and to get to her level and have 12 grand slam titles would be even better." Yesterday was America's Independence Day and it was the fourth time the Williams siblings had fought out a Wimbledon final. It was also their 21st personal duel since they began travelling the world over 10 years ago. The form guide over the last few days suggested that it would be Venus, not Serena, who would take an 11-10 lead because the five-time champion had qualified for her eighth final without dropping a set for the second year in a row and had annihilated the top-seeded Russian Safina 6-1, 6-0 in the semi-finals.

That easy victory had come barely an hour after Serena had left the Centre Court on Thursday battered and bruised, but still alive to fight another day after saving a match point against another Russian Elena Dementieva. Serena looked close to collapsing towards the end of the longest semi-final in women's singles history but there were no signs of any lingering effects as she looked stronger and fitter against a seemingly anxious Venus. Threatened only once in an opening set that went with serve - she saved two break points in the opening game - Serena dominated the ensuing tie-break and was then able to play in a more carefree fashion in the second set. The first break point of the match against Venus resulted in a nervous double fault which propelled her sister towards the finishing line quicker than expected. She still needed four chances to seal her emotional triumph, though. She squandered her first two match points with limp forehands before Venus saved a third with a fierce smash. The fourth resulted in Venus putting a forehand over the baseline, sending Serena into wild celebration which was interrupted by a sprint to the net to embrace her disconsolate sister. Venus, 29, who believes she can still add to her seven grand slam titles - two of them at the US Open - refused to blame her heavily-strapped left knee for the defeat. "I have no complaints," she said. "Serena was too good today. She had an answer to everything, so congratulations to her. "Obviously I wanted to win a sixth title here, because every time I go on the court, I think I can win. I never suffer from what they call defending champion pressure and I'm already looking forward to coming back next year to try to regain my title." wjohnson@thenational.ae