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Minggu, 08 Juli 2012

Serena Williams hails fifth Wimbledon title as 'beginning of something great'

WIMBLEDON — Not every comeback story has a happy ending.
On Saturday, Serena Williams made sure hers did.
Shaking off the nerves and she neared the finish line and fending off a determined charge from under-the-weather opponent Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, the 30-year-old American prevailed 6-1, 5-7, 6-2 in a surprisingly competitive Wimbledon ladies' singles final.
It was only the third major women's final out of the last 24 not to be decided in straight sets.
A year ago, Williams was just returning to action here after a nightmare year during which she had two foot surgeries, a blood clot, a pulmonary embolism and other issues that, for someone less determined at the same late stage of her career, might have signaled the end.
Instead, she returned in the best shape of her life and, though the last nine months, played extremely well — in spurts.
After a first-round loss at the French Open to Virginie Razzano in May that both shocked her and devastated her and a rather nervy, sluggish start here, the Serena Express picked up enough steam to claim the Venus Rosewater dish for the fifth time.
She tied her sister Venus, who was in the stands with tears in her eyes, with five. Williams now has 14 major titles; there's no reason she can't add to that total.
"Are you kidding? The U.S. Open, the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon 2013, The Championships," she said. "It's the beginning of a great phase. You know, I feel amazing out there. This whole tournament I felt really great physically. So I think it's definitely the beginning of something great. I hope it is."
The roof was open, but there were no issues with the weather beyond a brief rain interruption after the first set.
Seemingly on her way to a straight-set loss, Radwanska wasn't quite ready to hand it over. "She started playing excellent grass court tennis, getting a lot of balls back, and I panicked a little bit and I shouldn't have," Williams said of her opponent. "I usually don't."
The emotions were palpable on the court when it was over. It isn't often Williams falls, overcome with emotion, to the court after a big victory. More often than not, she just jumps up and down with joy.
She did that as well. But her journey back, remembering the nights she spent in the hospital with a tube draining fluid out of her stomach as sister Isha, physiotherapist Ester Lee and public-relations aide and friend Val Vogt sleeping over in rather cramped quarters, brought out some rare public tears.
After that French Open loss, Williams stayed on Paris, where she has a residence. She began training with coach and academy owner Patrick Mouratoglou, who has worked with many top players. In some way, it both healed her and re-energized her.
And this was the result.
Afterwards, Williams nimbly leaped into the stands. First father Richard, and then mother Oracene and sister Isha got long hugs.
Radwanska, as well, had tears when she spoke to on-court interviewer Sue Barker.
As Williams was rejoicing in the stands, Radwanska pulled tissue after tissue out of her bag and blew her nose repeatedly, as she had throughout the match.
A respiratory illness weakened her over the last week. And while there was no doubt she would try to play, it clearly took everything to take it the distance.
"I'm still shaking so much. I think I had the best two weeks of my life," Radwanska said. "I think Serena was just playing too good today but I'm just happy to be in the final."
A Grand Slam title in her first career final wasn't the only thing at stake for Radwanska. Had she won, she would have become the new No. 1 player in the world.
As it is, she'll climb to a career-best No. 2. Williams will move from No. 6 to No. 4.
It is Williams's first major title since her win at Wimbledon in 2010. She is the first woman over 30 to win Wimbledon since Martina Navratilova, who was 33 when she won in 1990.
Seven hours after Serena hoisted the singles trophy, the sisters closed out the doubles title with a 7-5, 6-4 victory over the Czech pair of Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka.
The sisters easily could have been out in the second round, a rain-delayed match against No. 4 seeds Nadia Petrova and Maria Kirilenko of Russia. And Williams easily could have pulled out of the event once she reached the singles final.
Instead, the sisters spent the off-day between the semis and final playing, and winning, two matches together.
Saturday, they started around 9:30 p.m. under the roof and finished with 10 minutes to spare before the neighbourhood-mandated 11 p.m. curfew.
It was, as it happens, their fifth Wimbledon doubles crown together, after five matches in the last four days.
In between the two triumphs, another great Wimbledon story played out on Centre Court.
The last-minute wild-card men's doubles team of Jonathan Marray and Frederik Nielsen, the Brit and the Dane, pulled off a 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (5), 6-7 (5), 6-3 win over Johan Brunstrom of Sweden and Horia Tecau of Romania, who have now lost three consecutive Wimbledon doubles finals.
Marray, from Sheffield, is the first British man to win the men's doubles title in 76 years.
That's right, the last time it happened was 1936. That's the same year the last British man, Fred Perry, won the Wimbledon singles title.
As omens go, that's a pretty good one.
When countryman Andy Murray takes on Roger Federer Sunday, we'll see if it has any significance

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