Saturday 21 October 2017

Wimbledon: Williams hails start of something special after emotional triumph

Simon Cambers at Wimbledon

A nerve-addled Serena Williams survived a second-set wobble to win her fifth Wimbledon title, beating a resilient Agnieszka Radwanska 6-1 5-7 6-2 to take her tally of Grand Slam singles titles to 14.

The 30-year-old American led by a set and 4-2 before nerves set in, but she recovered just in time to win her first Grand Slam since her victory here two years ago.

Her win takes her alongside her sister, Venus, with five singles titles, and with their doubles final still to come, the American has now won 28 Grand Slam titles in all. She is the first woman aged 30 or over to win a Grand Slam singles title since Martina Navratilova in 1990.

In cool, cloudy conditions, the match looked over as Williams raced through the first set and after a 25-minute delay for rain forged a 4-2 lead in the second. World number three Radwanska had come into her first Grand Slam final struggling with breathing problems but with the finishing line in sight, it was Williams who was badly hit by nerves.

Having been smashing winners for fun in the opening set and a half, the tension seems to get to Williams's legs, and as she stopped moving smoothly, the errors flowed. Radwanska had reached her first Grand Slam final through her tactical nous, her consistency and the variety of her shots and the Pole took full advantage to force a decider.

The early stages of the third set, greeted by some rare sunshine, were nip and tuck as Radwanska saved break points in each of her first two service games. It took a perfect game of four straight aces -- which made it 2-2 -- to get Williams back on track. The sixth seed broke for 3-2 and then, after Radwanska saved three more break points in the seventh game, a perfect drop shot put her one game away from victory.

Serving for the title, the Williams serve, the standout shot of the entire women's event, did not let her down and a backhand winner gave her an emotional victory. Her 16 aces took her tally for the tournament to 101, a new record for the women's event.

Williams described winning her fifth Wimbledon title as the end of "an unbelievable journey", less than two years after a serious injury which later led to a life-threatening illness. The American returned to the tour 12 months ago and her triumph was a reward for the enormous hard work she has put in since then.

Shortly after she won Wimbledon in 2010, Williams stepped in broken glass, and complications over the injury meant she required two sets of surgery. Months later she was in hospital, recovering from a blot clot on one of her lungs and wondering if she would ever play again.

"There was a moment, I just remember I was on the couch and I didn't leave it for two days," Williams said. "I was just over it. I was praying [thinking] I can't take any more. I've endured enough. Let me be able to get through this.

"[But] I didn't give up. I was just so tired at that point. I had a tube in my stomach and it was draining constantly. Right before that I had the blood clot. I had lung problems, two foot surgeries. It was a lot. I felt like I didn't do anything to bring on that. I just felt down, the lowest of lows.

"Coming here and winning is amazing because last year I was ranked almost 200," she continued. "It's been an unbelievable journey for me. It's the beginning of a great phase. This whole tournament I felt really great physically. So I think it's definitely the beginning of something great."

Williams said the support of her family and friends had helped her get through it. Having been through so much, she said she hoped to add to her tally of 14 Grand Slam singles titles sooner rather than later. Topping a fifth Wimbledon title will take some doing, but Williams had an easy, quick answer. "Are you kidding?" she said. "The US Open, the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon 2013, the WTA Championships."

With her 31st birthday just a couple of months away, keeping the young guns at bay may be easier said than done, but having come through so many problems, anything is possible.

"I have never felt better," she said. "This whole tournament I have pretty much been injury-free. I played so much. Normally I play two events, but this one was different because I played every day, two matches a day for a while. I haven't done that in a long time, and I felt great."

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