It was an unapologetic evisceration, with Williams needing just 63 minutes for the 6-0, 6-1 victory.
And she leaped up and down on Centre Court, where she won the fifth of her Wimbledon championships four weeks earlier, then erupted into a celebratory dance as her sister Venus snapped photos from a courtside box.
With the victory, Williams became only the second woman and fourth tennis player in history to accomplish what’s known as the “Golden Slam,” winning all four of the sport’s majors and Olympic singles gold. Andre Agassi, Steffi Graf and Rafael Nadal did so, as well.
“I never played better,” Williams told reporters afterward. “I have my gold medal [in singles], and now I have everything, literally. I have singles, doubles — actually everything there is to win in tennis. Where do I go from here?”
Serena Williams wasn’t the only American celebrating on Centre Court on Saturday. Twins Bob and Mike Bryan, who have claimed nearly every title of significance in the sport, exulted after finally winning Olympic gold in men’s doubles.
“We have always dreamed about standing on the podium, seeing the flag go up,” Mike Bryan said. “We could end tomorrow, and we’re going to be happy for the rest of our lives.”
Added Bob Bryan: “There’s no bigger match we’d rather win than that one: Centre Court, Wimbledon, for our country, for each other. We’re 34 years old, and we’ve played tennis since 2 years old. That’s a lot of balls going across the net, and this is it! This is the top of the mountain.”
That’s how Williams felt, as well, adding one more achievement to a résumé that is staggering, particularly given the injuries and illness she has battled throughout a 16-year pro career.
Williams has won 14 major titles, the most of any active player in women’s tennis and sixth all-time. She also has 13 Grand Slam doubles titles, all shared with Venus. And she has three Olympic gold medals, with the possibility of a adding a fourth Sunday.
Just three hours after Serena won singles gold, she returned to the same, well-trodden Centre Court with Venus to defeat a sturdier pair of Russians, Nadia Petrova and Maria Kirilenko, 7-5, 6-4, to earn a place in Sunday’s women’s doubles final.
They’ll face the Czech tandem of Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka for what would be their third Olympic gold in doubles, having triumphed at the 2000 Sydney Games and in Beijing in 2008.
In a way, Serena’s ruthless display of force and skill against Sharapova was a measure of respect for the Russian, whom she has utterly dominated since losing the 2004 WTA Championship final. Since that defeat, Serena is 8-0 against Sharapova and hasn’t allowed the Russian to win even a single set against her in four years.