July 7, 2012

Where Old Is New Again

It's been said a couple times during this Wimbledon fortnight that "30 is the new 20", and with veterans like Kim Clijsters, Francesca Schiavone, Na Li and Sam Stosur all peaking in the latter half of their careers, maybe that's truly the case. But the ladies' final today at the All England Club not only represented the power of experience, but also put a trophy back in a case that's been a little empty for some time.

Serena Williams was the overwhelming favorite in Saturday's championship, despite a lower ranking than world #3 Aggie Radwanska and fewer titles on the year than her opponent. The Pole was playing her first Major final, had never before this week made it as far as a semi, and though she's one of the most consistent players on Tour, hasn't developed a weapon that could really threaten the four-time titlist. And for the first forty-five minutes or so of play, Serena's comfort on the big stage was apparent -- she won the opening five games of the match and took a 4-2 lead after a short rain delay. The match looked like it would not be long for this world.

But Aggie is one of those players that does not give up -- in the eighth game of the set she earned her first break opportunity and as the errors started piling up on Williams' side, was able to capitalize. With Serena serving for a tiebreak a few moments later, Radwanska raised her game even higher, broke again and forced the American to only her fourth Slam final deciding set.

As might have been expected, though, Serena took charge after that. Aggie struggled to hold serve early in the third, and though she fought off several break opportunities, Williams was stronger on balance. The world #6 aced out her opponent in the fourth game, won every one of her first serves, and took half of Radwanska's own service points. By the end of the match she'd fired off a record-setting 102 aces during the tournament, and when Aggie failed to get to her final backhand winner, she had finally ended a two-year Major draught, capturing her fourteenth Slam crown.

For Radwanska's part, it was a more-than-admirable showing -- largely expected to be beaten down today, she proved she could ball with the best of them. And the soon-to-be-#2 in the world showed she's got the fight and confidence it takes to eventually make it to the winner's circle at a Major. I wouldn't be surprised to see her there soon.

The men tomorrow with put up a similar battle -- six-time Wimbledon champ Roger Federer will look to end an even longer losing streak at the Slams when he takes the court against Andy Murray on championship Sunday. The Scot's been on the big stage before but has lost all nine sets he's contested. And though Murray has a chance to make history for the UK, I expect Federer, with a chance at equalling Pete Sampras' record seven wins at the All England Club, will do his best to put his name back in the books.

It wouldn't exactly be a new phenomenon -- Roger & Serena have shared Slam titles five times before -- but it has been a while since we've seen them both with the trophies. And if they both make it back to the top this time, there's no reason to believe they won't do it again and again.

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