The consensus before yesterday's ladies' final at Wimbledon was that these Williams family affairs are getting a little better to watch, that the sisters from Compton, Los Angeles, are now happy to have a cut off each other on court after years of not quite knowing what to make of facing each other across the net. Well if that theory is true, it was certainly difficult to detect on a sunlit if slightly windy Centre Court, as Serena Williams, the younger of these extraordinarily talented sisters, won her third Wimbledon singles title – her 11th Grand Slam victory in all – 7-6 (7-3), 6-2 in just under 90 minutes.
"This feels amazing, I feel really blessed," Serena said after, before going on to thank Jehovah for getting her through the tournament fit and healthy. Venus on the other hand had absolutely nothing to thank Jehovah for – she didn't admit to feeling particularly blessed either – and once it all sinks in, she'll be bitterly disappointed at having lost her Wimbledon crown so tamely. "I don't think the loss has set in yet," she said with an out-of-place smile. "Serena was just too good for me. She had an answer to everything, particularly in the tie-break. I didn't think I played all that badly in the tie-break but she was hitting winners off what I thought were decent shots from me."
There could be no argument with that, even though it took a tie-break to separate the sisters in a dull and seemingly perfunctory first set. Neither women dropped their serve and neither really looked like dong so either until Venus earned two break points in Serena's fourth service game. The elder sister, however, couldn't convert either of her opportunities to edge in front and was duly punished in the tie-break.
Serena's stinging first serve gave her the platform to steal a march on her sister and having earned four set-points as she ran Venus around the court with a series of powerfully delivered forehands, she gratefully accepted the second of them with a beautifully judged lob from the baseline. One-nil Serena.
The pressure, then, was firmly on Venus as it generally has been when the two have met in Grand Slam finals. In their seven finals around the globe before yesterday, Serena had emerged victor on five occasions. When you consider that each had won 10 of the 20 games they'd faced each other in in professional tennis before this final, you are left wondering one of two things; has Serena a hex over her sister, or, has Venus a tendency to bottle it on the big stage?
It was something of a surprise that Venus lost the first set given her form these past two weeks. Of the two, the 29-year-old had looked the more impressive on her way to the final, dropping not a single set and just 19 games in her six matches. Before yesterday, she'd spent just six-and-a-half hours on court but when Serena broke her serve to go 4-2 up in the second, Venus probably wished she'd been tested a little more before she came up against such a top quality opponent.
It was at this point that Serena's serve hit top gear. Before the final, the younger sister had hit 60 aces in her six games, double the amount Venus had managed, and her prowess in that department showed yesterday. She hit 12 aces, not an exceptional number, but their timing, particularly in her service game after that match-defining break, succeeded in knocking much of the fight from her sister. At 5-2 down, Venus looked edgy and uncomfortable and after a wayward forehand, one of many in the second set, Serena earned a championship point.
She missed that particular opportunity on account of a horrible bounce, and another opportunity slipped past two points later when she inexplicably decided to play a high, bouncing shot across court rather than smash the ball right down the throat of her sister. Had she the instinct to kill her sibling off? More fuel was added to that particular fire when Serena missed a third opportunity to win but Venus couldn't hang on for ever. On the fourth championship point, big sis gave little sis a dig out by drilling a doubled-handed backhand straight into the net and that was that. Game, set and match, Serena.
"I feel incredible," said the victor. "Now I want to keep winning. Billie Jean King is one of my heroes and I would love to get to 12 titles to be up with her." The trophy collected, the pictures taken, the press spoken to, the sisters cooled off in the locker room and headed off to play the final of the ladies' doubles on Centre Court, before they had time to properly dwell on the afternoon's events.
What incredible athletes they are, with Serena just a touch more incredible on the day that was in it.