Williams’s voice quivered with emotion as she thanked her parents, sisters, trainer and hitting partner once again during the on-court interview after her 6-1, 5-7, 6-2 victory over Agnieszka Radwanska.
Having missed nearly a year of competition after a series of setbacks that included two foot surgeries and a pulmonary embolism, Williams proved in winning her 14th Grand Slam title that she remains the most formidable player in women’s tennis.
What’s different following her comeback is Williams’s appreciation for this Wimbledon title and understanding that she could not have done it alone.
“Those people that were in that box were all with me when I went through everything I went through, and I just felt like I don’t say ‘thank you’ enough,” Williams told a small group of reporters afterward. “I didn’t think I would play tennis again at one point. I just wanted to make it out of the hospital. Making it out of that moment, that’s when you realize you have perspective about life and your career.”
With Saturday’s victory, Williams equaled her sister Venus’s five Wimbledon championships. All told, the sisters from Compton, Calif., coached by their parents outside the traditional structure of junior tennis, have won 10 of the last 13 Wimbledon titles.
“Growing up, I copied Venus — everything she did,” Williams said of her 32-year-old sister and doubles partner, who has cheered her since childhood. “So when she started winning, I wanted it so bad. When she became number one, I had to be number one. I had to work harder; I had to do everything in my power to get there.”
Saturday evening, Serena and Venus combined to win their fifth Wimbledon doubles title, defeating Czechs Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka, 7-5, 6-4.
At 30, Williams was the oldest player to win Wimbledon since 1990, when Martina Navratilova claimed her ninth singles title at age 33.
Saturday’s championship was marked by dramatic swings of momentum.
Radwanska, 23, wasn’t remotely up to the challenge in the early going, overwhelmed by Williams’s power and big-game experience.
The 2005 Wimbledon girls champion, Radwanska has climbed to No. 3 in the world by minimizing her errors and compensating for any lack of power with speed and craftiness. But she doesn’t have a single shot that’s superior to those in Williams’s arsenal.
So it was imperative that the Pole start strong, disrupt Williams’s rhythm and hope that her opponent’s run of brilliant serving came to an end.
None of that happened in the opening set, in which Williams easily handled Radwanska’s thinly-veiled drop shots and never faced a break point.
With Radwanska looking listless, three-time Wimbledon champion John McEnroe, commentating for the BBC, called out on her behalf, “Espresso to Centre Court!”
But after a 23-minute rain delay, a potential rout turned into compelling theater.
“I was a little bit nervous in the beginning,” conceded Radwanska, who had never advanced beyond the quarterfinals of a major. “When I was going on the court the second time, I just felt like a normal match.”
She held serve to open the second set.
And Williams, after taking a 4-2 lead, committed a rash of errors. She botched two forehands to get broken. With Radwanska hanging in the rallies, Williams was on edge for a must-hold game at 5-6. Three errors and a double-fault later, Radwanska drew even at one set each.
“Maybe I wanted it so bad that I got tight,” Williams said. “I started making errors. I was negative.”
But as she had all tournament, Williams put her faith in her serve. She blasted four successive aces to win the fourth game. Then she pulled off a masterful drop shot to break Radwanska again.
Williams closed with a backhand winner, spun around and fell flat on her back, not quite believing what she had done. With 17 aces Saturday, she brought her tournament total to 102 — a Wimbledon record for women.
Asked what more she could want, Williams enumerated.
“The U.S. Open, the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon 2013,” she replied.
Four more major victories would place her in elite company, equaling the 18 majors held by Chris Evert and Navratilova.
Evert, who provided analysis for ESPN, said she felt 18 majors was within Williams’s grasp.
“Victory is sweet when you go through adversity, and she certainly has gone through adversity,” Evert said in an interview. “As long as she stays healthy and hungry, she is the player to beat.”