© Ella Ling

Miami 2012 - Serena Williams 2

Serena, Maria and a golden, violent afternoon


Five thoughts after Serena Williams defeated Maria Sharapova 6-0, 6-1 to win her first Olympic singles gold.

The BBC aren’t usually in the habit of broadcasting violence just after lunch. To think that lawn tennis began life in Britain as a gentle pursuit for demure ladies at Victorian garden parties; more than a century later, and we have Serena Williams, quite possibly the greatest female player of all time, producing what was certainly the most brutal, terrifying performance ever seen on a grass court. You could watch women’s tennis for another 50 years and won’t see another set of tennis as perfect as the opening set from Serena. The Californian played extremely well in the second set, but did not quite touch the heights of the first set. Both players started the day hoping to win a first Olympic singles title to achieve a career golden slam, to become only the second woman, after Steffi Graf, to do so. Serena had come dressed for the occasion. To Serena’s other gold, bling accessories – the watch and the hair-scrunchie – she added the medal. So we saw Serena’s ruthless side, and then came the playful bit, with the dance on the grass.

Any quibbles? There were two. Serena, though she led 6-0 3-0, didn’t force-feed a double bagel down Sharapova’s throat (that would have been a lot of carbs for Maria). The only other blooper came during the medal ceremony when the Stars and Stripes¬†dropped off the flag pole.

Sharapova once told the talk-show host Chelsea Handler (who was sitting in her player box for this) that she can be a “bitch”. So she’s tough. But there can be no doubt that this was one of the most excruciating experiences of her tennis life; a 100 million-dollar fortune doesn’t offer any protection from the embarrassment. Usually when players who are being thrashed at last win a game, and receive a round of applause from Centre Court that comes with a little wink of irony, that players then smile or raise a hand. There was nothing from Maria. That’s not she rolls.¬†

What do we call Serena’s achievement of being the only player in history to achieve the career grand slam in singles AND doubles? Doubtless, Serena will have something in mind.

The next time Serena sees Virginie Razzano, she should thank her. Serena lost to the Frenchwoman in the first round at Roland Garros. Look at what has happened since; a Wimbledon title and a first Olympic singles gold.