Superb Williams powers to new level of greatness
Vera Zvonareva battled, scrapped, tried everything she could and still it was nowhere near enough. An utterly dominant Serena Williams duly won her fourth Wimbledon title with a 6-3 6-2 victory over the Russian to secure Grand Slam title No 13 and a cheque for £1m and prove yet again that she is by far the best player in the women's game.
Her victory moved her above her fellow American Billie Jean King into sixth place in the all-time list of Grand Slam champions and though the record of 24 held by Margaret Court looks a long way off, if she stays fit over the next few years, Martina Navratilova's tally of 18 may be within reach.
"Hey Billie, I got you -- that's 13 for me now," Williams said to King, who had watched from the Royal Box.
Zvonareva was just the third Russian woman to make it to the final here -- Olga Morozova was the runner-up in 1974 and Maria Sharapova beat Williams to win the title in 2004 -- but despite everything that Zvonareva had accomplished in reaching her first Grand Slam final, beating the US Open champion Kim Clijsters in the quarter-finals, the final had an air of inevitability that even the Russian must have felt. Williams had not dropped a set on her way to the final and only two women, Sharapova in 2004 and Serena's sister, Venus, in 2008 had got the better of her in a Wimbledon final. As Navratilova said: "All things being equal, Serena will win."
Nine aces from Williams took her total for the tournament to a Wimbledon-record 89 and it was the serve that kept Zvonareva pinned on the back foot, never allowing her to get the first strike that might have let her gain confidence. One enormous backhand by Williams in the first game signalled her attacking intent and though the Russian stayed on terms early on, she was always fighting an uphill battle. That Zvonareva perhaps did not play her very best was more down to the performance of Williams than any freezing on the big occasion from the No 21 seed.
When Williams broke in the eighth game with a brilliant forehand pass down the line, the result was a formality, with an untimely injury perhaps the only thing that might have stopped her. Zvonareva saved two set points at 5-3 down, but a smash and a forehand winner sealed the set and then Williams immediately broke serve in the opening game of the second.
From then on, it was just a matter of time until she finished things off and it did not take long. A second break came in the fifth game thanks to a Zvonareva double-fault and she completed victory with a smash into the open court, throwing her racquet in the air and clenching both fists. Five of her 13 wins have come in the past two years and at this rate, especially with the younger generation taking their time to come through, she is going to be the one to beat for some time yet.
"It means a lot because it is 13 and that's kind of cool because I was able to beat Billie. To have four Wimbledon titles is amazing," Williams said. "I am living in a time when the game is so much faster, so if they say I am the greatest right now, then that's great. It's funny, I didn't think I was playing that well, especially in practice. But when I got on the court, it was good. I served really well and to win the tournament without losing a set is pretty cool."
Zvonareva, who will return to the world's top 10 tomorrow, said that when she reflects on her performance over the fortnight, she will be proud of her efforts in reaching her first Grand Slam final.
"I am disappointed, not with the result but more the way I played," she said. "I did not show my best and it's a bit disappointing because it's the final. But overall, Serena played really well and she didn't give me chances to get into the match."
Some of the 15,000-strong crowd crammed into Centre Court might have been waiting for a Zvonareva meltdown, for the Russian has been known to throw her toys out of the pram.
"Perfectionism is something that can help you and something that can destroy you as well," she said. "I think now I know how to handle my perfectionism better," she said. "Maybe earlier in my career I wanted everything perfect and everything perfect right now, and if it didn't work right now, then I would get so angry with myself."