Venus Williams Wins Wimbledon

Elder Williams Sister Downs Serena 7-5, 6-4 For Fifth Title

Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 6, 2008; Page D01

WIMBLEDON, England, July 5 -- In the face of wildly gusting winds and her most feared opponent, Venus Williams was forced to produce some of the best shots of her career -- including a record 129-mph serve -- to win her fifth Wimbledon championship on Saturday.

But she refrained from displaying her signature move after the 7-5, 6-4 triumph, choosing not to jump up and down on Centre Court in celebration as she has in years past.

Venus's younger sister Serena was across the net, after all. And Serena, who revels in her role as the spoiled baby of the Williams family, has always taken losses hard.

So Venus met her courtside with an embrace, trying as best she could to rein in the euphoria she felt.

"I'm definitely more in tune with my sister's feelings because one of us has to win, and one of us has to lose," Venus explained afterward. "The celebration isn't as exciting because my sister just lost."

But the awkward family dynamics did nothing to diminish the grandeur of Venus's achievement in hoisting Wimbledon's traditional silver salver, prophetically named the Venus Rosewater dish in 1886, for a fifth time.

Only two women have won more Wimbledon singles titles in the open era, Martina Navratilova (nine) and Steffi Graf (seven). Navratilova looked on from the Royal Box on Saturday as Venus took another step toward equaling her record. So did six-time Wimbledon singles champion Billie Jean King, a mentor, friend and occasional coach of both Williams sisters since they emerged from the public courts of Compton, Calif., schooled in the game by their self-taught father, who always believed his girls would change the face of the game.

Together, the Williams sisters did just that, winning nine of 13 major titles contested in one stretch between 2000 and 2003.

They brought unprecedented power to the women's game, blasting serves at a pace that rivaled many men on the pro tour. They rewrote the sport's conventional playbook, attacking at every opening rather than hugging the baseline and patiently swapping shots until an opponent erred. And they brought a new demographic with them -- fans who cheered their colorful outfits, charismatic personalities and the triumph against the odds that their victories represented.

But interest in tennis waned after the sisters slipped from their perch atop the sport. Other women filled the vacuum, including a pair of Belgians who shot up the world rankings only to retire before age 26, followed by a parade of hard-hitting Russians and Serbs. But none caught hold of American sports fans the way Venus and Serena had.

Saturday's Wimbledon championship was the first time the Williams sisters had met in the finals of a Grand Slam event since 2003. Neither was seeded among the top five. But after suffering early-round defeats in last month's French Open, both arrived at Wimbledon healthy and hungry to reclaim their place among the best.

Venus, 28, had extra motivation. She was eager to defend her 2007 Wimbledon title. And she was equally eager to chip away at Serena's 5-1 career record against her in their previous Grand Slam finals. Venus hadn't defeated Serena in the finals of a major tournament, in fact, since the 2001 U.S. Open.

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