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Aggie Mounts Spirited Challenge; Williams Prevail; Yet Another Miracle: Men's Doubles Review

Williams Sisters Now Share 5 Singles and 5 doubles Titles at AELTC

July 07, 2012 | 09:04 PM

Highlights From 10 Hours of Wimbledon Today:

- Serena Wins 5th Singles and 5th Doubles Wimbledon Titles (with Venus)

- Brit Wins Doubles Title for First Time in 50 Years

- Mike Bryan into Mixed Final

If you hadn't followed tennis in a little longer than it had been since Prince Charles had previously visited the Royal Box, you'd think the tennis clock was stuck back in the 1930's when Americans and Brits dominated Wimbledon with Fred Perry, Bunny Austin, Don Budge, and Gene Mako. And Andy Murray still hasn't taken the court against the challenger from the Continent, Federer.

SERENA winning Wimbledon is, of course, a very familiar thing in the the last decade when only 3 titles have been won by non-Williams finalists (Sharapova in '04, Mauresmo in '06 and Kvitova in '11). She and Venus now have 5 singles titles each and 5 doubles together, accounting for 20 of their 47 pieces of major winner hardware (21 singles major titles, 13 doubles).

No wonder the Duke of Kent looked bored by the time he presented them trophies for the women's doubles. He zipped right out of the Royal Box after a 10 hour day which started after luncheon at 2pm, included 3 tea breaks (short rain delays) and 3 breaks for Pimms Cup, strawberries & cream, etc. (between matches and when the roof was closing). Perhaps he'll complain to the Queen Mum that she was only on the Thames for 5 hours during the Diamond Jubilee, or that the Royal Box lacked the canopy of her Golden Barge.

The singles match itself was anything but a routine Williams blitz krieg of a weaker opponent, though it started as just that with SW taking the first 5 games against #3 seed Aggie Radwanska, who can't generate a lot of pace even with her flat strokes. The Pole-ette started anemically, perhaps as a result of fighting an upper respiratory ailment (without steroidal inhalers) that had grown worse in the rainy playing conditions. Aggie had com close to winning her serve each time, and finally did at 0-5, to the relief of all (the Duke may have not have stopped planning his evening menu). Serena held for a 6-1 set, over in 36 minutes with the loss of only 7 points on serve, but everyone could see that Aggie was capable of more than staying with Serena once a point got past the first 2 shots, and that this could pose a problem in the 2nd set.

It did.

By the first game of the 2nd SET, after a short rain delay, Aggie added variety to her service placements and speeds on both 1st and 2nd serves, and increased the penetration of her groundstrokes. She began to hold comfortably, and shifted the burden equally to Serena on her serve. Though she was broken in a long game and trailed 2-4, she was finally able to earn and convert a break point and even the score at 4-4. By this time her serve and groundstrokes were finding the lines, and she was as much into her comfort zone as Serena was out of hers. When Aggie broke at 3-4 with the help of groundstroke errors from Serena and a declining 1st serve percentage, the #3 controlled play with a mix of slices and placements, changing from defense to offense as artfully as a Federer to leave her opponent looking confused and slow. Breaking again to win the set 7-5, she now presented a different problem for Serena than Azarenka's power baseline game.

In the first game of the 3rd SET, Aggie began to cough after long points and the American adjusted her return swings when serves came into her strike zone to produce a pair of effortless-looking winners that extended Aggie's service game.

At 1-2 Serena held with 4 quick aces in a row, getting her tournament total to the 100 mark milestone (a record for a woman), and more importantly putting the balls back in Aggie's hands to serve again. With Serena bearing down and re-confident, it was too much for the Pole to hold a 7th time in a row (6 was more than Azarenka or anyone else had done against Serena). Getting stronger and shortening points, Serena was able to run off 5 games in a row for the set, 6-2, and her 5th title.

Serena's 1st service percentage had never returned to it's 1st set level and ended far short of the 70% she'd attained in the semis, and her ace count never climbed to what it had been against Vika (she reached 17, short of the 24 from Thursday). But, once again, her serve had made the difference.

The winner fell to the court on her back, lying still and looking up (perhaps to thank her lucky stars), then went to the net post where the tearful loser was waiting anxiously. Soon the champ was zig-zagging up through the audience to hug her family in the players' box, before being led back to the court for the trophy presentation.

Aggie struggled through her on court remarks, her respiratory problem aggravated by choking up. She was understandably brief, omitting any mention of her opponent, a slight that doesn't seem to reflect her polite manner and fine sportsmanship.

Serena praised her opponent and thanked the crowd though she neglected to thank Nike (her sponsor), the tournament sponsors, lines people, ball persons, tarp pullers, or court sentries, but thanking the crowd. Her appreciation was expressed for her team and parents, and she teared up on the mention of the sister who had stood by her bed after she had life threatening blood clots last year. There was some genuine self-deprecation in her laughing reply to a question about whether "30 is the new 20" (following a remark about her winning at age 30): she insisted that she acts more like a 12 year old (were it not so true, it would not have seemed genuine).

In the club house media room after the two players had toured Centre Court with their trophies, a hint of a new modesty was again revealed in her interview with her coach, Mary Jo Fernandez. MJ asked her to talk about her views of what makes a champion. Rather than deflect the question or answer with self-serving platitudes as she would have done in the past, she gave a thoughtful answer, a part of which included sportsman-like behavior after losing, something she confessed with open laughter is not like me.

Could this be a new, improved Serena?

Though we won't know until she loses a big match like this one, it's nice to think it's not too late for even Serena to change. In any event, 5 hours later she went out enjoyed another 90 minutes on court in her doubles final with Venus. Her spirit revealed a joy and comfort with who she is: a tennis champion. Even if the Duke was more than tired of watching tennis in the cold, she had entertained millions of viewers and fans with 8 hours of tennis in 2 days.

In her book published last summer, Serena had taken pains to share that (like Agassi) she had never felt comfortable with her career as a tennis pro. There's nothing like almost losing something to help a person see what they have. Retaining that feeling may not be so easy for an athlete with such an ego who is so used to being the center of celebrity attention.

Complete singles score: 6-1, 5-7, 6-2 (123 minutes)

The women's doubles was another match dominated by serving. The Williams won their first 17 points on serve, and yet the set went to 7-5. Both Czech opponents served well, Hredecka notching speeds higher than the Williams (122 mph). Breaking serve from 30-30 at 6-5, the sisters had the first set, and Serena ended her day before the 11pm curfew for play at Wimbledon could have suspended her tournament another day.

Complete doubles score: 7-5, 6-4 (80 minutes)

The only AMERICAN to be disappointed today was BRYAN brother Bob, who lost the semis of the mixed today with Olympic partner Liezel Huber (the #1 seeds) to #4 seeds Elena Vesnina and Bryan nemesis Leander Paes,.

Complete score mixed doubles semis (Bob B): 5-7, 6-3, 3-6.

As the Bryan twins are best friends, Bob will be ready to celebrate tomorrow with brother Mike. He and his Olympic partner Lisa Raymond (seeded #2) marched on to the final with a win over #3 seeds Zimonjic and Srebotnik.

Complete score mixed doubles semis (Mike B): 7-5, 3-6, 6-3

Paes and men's partner Radek Stepanek beat Bob and Mike in the finals of Australia and Miami earlier this year. The Bryans have also lost twice to Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor, in Paris and Queen's.

As ageless as doubles greats seem to be, there is no reason to think this golden era is over just because the twins lost in the semis to a wild card team: three of the 4 men who've been on the other side of the net from the Bryans in major finals this year are older than they are, with 22 major doubles titles to their names:

Nestor (39) 8 Majors/79 titles

Mirnyi (35) 6 Majors/45 doubles titles

Paes (39) 7 Majors/50 doubles titles

Losing to wildcards Jonathan Marray and Frederik Nielsen (playing in their first ATP level event) in yesterday's semis was a shocking stop to their Wimbledon run, but as it turned out today in a wonderful match, the charmed run of this completely improbable pairing of journeymen from the Challenger and Future tours continued right through the final. In 5 competitive sets filled with Bryan-like exchanges at the net and service domination, they upset #5 seeds Robert Lindstedt and Horia Tecau for the title, and broke one half the spell that's been on the British at their own Championship (and other majors) for almost as long as the Curse of the Bambino rested on the Fenway Faithful.

Complete men's doubles score: 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (5), 6-7 (5), 6-3 (200 minutes)

The last Brit to win any major title?

It was a Murray - not Andy, but older brother Jamie (the mixed in 2007).

Hail to Jonathan Marray:

- high doubles rank: 74

- total wins in 10 prior Wimbledons: 6

Relatively speaking, Marray was the known quantity of his pair. Frederik Nielsen now belongs to a rare club of those in the Open era who have won a title in their debut at Wimbledon, and at almost 29 he may well be the oldest member of this small club. More important to him is the honor of being the first Dane to ever win a major title. If anyone was aware of the Danish curse at Wimbledon, who'd have thought this honor wouldn't go to Wozniacki?

Will Marray & Nielsen ever make history again?

Will a wild card run like theirs, finishing with with four 5 setters in a row in 5 days, happen again?

Their story falls into the same once-in-a-blue-moon category as the Lukas Rosol upset of Nadal in the 3rd round, or the golden set won in the 3rd round by Yaroslava Shvedova over Paris runner-up Sara Errani.

If it hadn't rained for the entire fortnight, spectators on Henman Hill might have been able to see the color of the moon above Centre Court.

Tomorrow's forecast: 90% chance of showers.

PS: The Wimbledon roof deserves recognition for saving the event this year and kept spectators happy through what has been an unusually rainy spring and what looks to be a very rainy summer. It's a good thing few Olympic sports depend on the weather.

The USTA needs to consider re-allocating the half a billion dollars planned for improvements that will not include a roof. How about razing Armstrong stadium and raising an arena with a roof?


Wimbledon Women's Finals, Men's Doub

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