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By Chris Oddo
Photo Credit:Clive Rose/ Getty  
Sara Errani French Open
(July 7, 2012)— Serena Williams capped off one of the greatest Wimbledon serving performances of all-time, outlasting Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland on a breezy, blustery day, 6-1, 5-7, 6-2. With the triumph, the 30-year-old becomes the first female aged thirty or greater to win a Grand Slam since Martina Navratilova in 1990.

She also notches her 14th career Grand Slam, good for sixth all-time, and ties her sister Venus with five Wimbledon titles.

(Stats: Serena's 14 Major Titles)

Williams’ serve was the story, but for the thirteenth time at this year’s Championships, the rain played a part too.

Play was delayed by rain at the conclusion of a 36-minute first set that featured dominance from Williams in the form of 16 winners and 13 of 15 successful first-serve points.

When play resumed, things got complicated.

Perhaps unnerved by a poor call that went against her serve at 3-4, Williams dropped serve twice in a three-game stretch to gift Radwanska the second set.

It was part comeback, part meltdown.

But let’s be clear: Radwanska earned her chances, and she was able to capitalize on some too. The 23-year-old, listed at 123 pounds on Wimbledon’s website, put forth a determined, at times sparkling effort, outthinking Williams during some exchanges and frustrating her with pinpoint accuracy during others.

“I totally lost composure, and I lost everything mentally,” said Serena of the turnaround that saw her drop a 4-2 lead in set two.

Eventually, Williams remembered the script.  

The script, of course, being the serve.

When Williams walloped four consecutive aces early in the third set, there was a seismic shift in momentum.

She would later thank her sister for a bit of advice rendered during the rain delay. “Remember you have the best serve,” she told her.

How could she forget?  

Suddenly, the fearsome 30-something was firing on all cylinders. She took the final five games of the match to erase all hopes of a Radwanska miracle.

It was an emotional moment for an emotional woman who has once again beaten the odds. “I think I could have literally leaped over there,” Serena said of her climb into the player’s box to hug the members of her family and entourage afterwards.

It was also a breathtaking display of unprecedented power by Williams.

Wimbledon has never seen a serving performance like this.

Williams finished Wimbledon with a record 102 aces, four more than the best male, Philipp Kohlschreiber, who finished Wimbledon with 98,

Williams also broke the single-match women’s record for aces—twice—serving 23 aces against Zheng Jie in the third round and 24 in the semifinals against Victoria Azarenka.

While the serving was front and center, the recurring theme for Williams was one of survival. Williams, troubled deeply by health issues in 2011, hadn’t expected to win. In the end it was the underdog spirit that fueled her run.

Williams, playing in only her fifth Grand Slam since returning from multiple surgeries, viewed herself as fragile; all the more reason to be strong.

“I just think of all those moments. Having two foot surgeries and getting blood clots, and being on my couch and never wanting to get up.” Williams said afterwards. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,”

Williams, who suffered complications due to foot surgery in the form of a pulmonary embolism and a hematoma in her stomach in 2011, had her doubts about ever picking up the racquet again.

“I didn’t even think I’d play tennis again at one point, I just wanted to live. I’m happy that I was able to do a little bit better than that,” she said.

Doubts seemed to spark her fury.

And her fury sparked the serve.

There may never be another one to compare. 

 

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