LONDON – The color of medal and the totality of domination in Saturday’s Olympic women’s singles final were not nearly as hard to comprehend as the wonder of Serena Williams’ tennis career.
She has now set the bar so high that ensuing reachers understandably may not even try. When added up, it is well beyond her 6-0, 6-1 victory over Maria Sharapova in the gold-medal match on Centre Court at Wimbledon. And that was mind-boggling.
Williams has achieved the Golden Slam of tennis – at least one career victory in each of the sport’s major events (Australian, French and U.S. opens and Wimbledon), plus an Olympic singles gold medal.
For a while, that achievement was the sole property of one household in Las Vegas, where Steffi Graf and her husband, Andre Agassi, live. Graf actually did it in one year, 1988. Then Rafael Nadal won gold in Beijing four years ago and joined the lofty group.
Now, Williams has them all scooting over a bit to make room on the throne, with more space possibly needed today, if Roger Federer wins his singles gold here.
An even longer look shows a legacy that speaks to incomparable versatility and sustained excellence, so much so that one might suggest a separate, higher throne for Serena. Besides her newly acquired Golden Slam, she also has won Olympic doubles twice with sister Venus. That in itself separates her from the others.
There is more.
She has won women’s doubles at least twice at each major. Her Grand Slam numbers: five Australians, five Wimbledons, three U.S. Opens and one French title in singles; five Wimbledon, four Australian, two French and two U.S. Opens in doubles.
There is more.
She has won the mixed doubles title at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open and has been to the final in the other two majors. And she is acutely aware of the blanks. Asked Saturday about remaining goals, she smiled and yelled, “Mixed doubles at the Australian and French.”
She also said she hoped to be in Rio de Janeiro for the next Olympics. That had to send chills down the collective spine of the other women’s players, who have demonstrated since Wimbledon that they can’t touch her.
Case in point: Sharapova, who, amazingly, was playing to take over the No. 1 ranking in the world with a victory. That was retained by Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, who won the bronze medal after being dismantled in straight sets Friday by Williams.
In all, Williams lost just 17 games in the Olympics.
She will be 31 on Sept. 26. She went through injuries (badly cut foot) and illness (pulmonary embolism) in the last two years. She has had several blips along the way that detracted from her legacy-building, including her verbal blowup at the linesperson at the 2009 U.S. Open and her first-round disintegration at this year’s French.
Saturday, it was all business, the same eyes-on-the-prize approach that has her looking otherworldly. Poor Sharapova.
Here she was, in a position to not only become No. 1, but get a Golden Slam of her own. And then Williams hit her with eight aces and 24 winners in a match that lasted 63 minutes, or about eight pounds per minute for holders of the more expensive seats.
The match was devoid of drama. Sharapova, playing for Russia, managed to get to 40-love on her serve at 0-5. The fans, feeling devastated for her and the thumping she was taking, revved up as best they could. But in two minutes, Williams was cranking a winner on set point.
Sharapova managed a game in the second set and that struck fear in the hearts of no one, except maybe Williams. Asked if she was trying for the 6-0, 6-0 double bagel, she said, “That would have been awesome, but only because it was Maria, because she is so tough.”
Williams danced after dispatching match point, then danced again to the top step of the victory stand. They played the national anthem and the usual Wimbledon swirling wind caught the American flag, tore it off its anchor and sent it into the seats below. As startling as that was, it didn’t put Williams off her celebration game.
“I thought it might come down and wrap itself around me,” she said.
And the legacy beat goes on: Competing in today’s women’s doubles final will be Serena and Venus Williams. Winning would mean four golds for each – one singles and three doubles.