Serena Williams jumped and danced for joy on Centre Court today as she completed the career Golden Slam, bringing home her first singles gold medal for Team USA after summarily dismissing Russia’s Maria Sharapova, 6-0, 6-1.
The fact that Williams had lost just 16 games in five matches and her lopsided head-to-head against Sharapova — she leads 8-2 and hasn’t lost to the Russian since 2004 — should have led us to expect a comprehensive victory, but perhaps only Williams herself dared to dream of a scoreline that devastating. Not since her first forays back into competitive tennis after her 2008 shoulder surgery has Sharapova looked so clueless on court, being utterly dominated in every aspect of the game and unable to come up with anything in the way of different or varied tactics to halt Williams’ march to victory.
After opening the match with a love hold that included three aces, one on a second serve, Williams was given a head start in Sharapova’s first servce game when the Russian double faulted, then put a forehand wide for 0-30. Williams cracked a fantastic return for break point, then backed up another with a forehand down the line winner to break to love. There was a brief window of hope for Sharapova as Williams, serving to consolidate at 2-0, put a wild forehand wide, then Sharapova for the first — and nearly the last — time managed to dominate the rally behind a deep return, running Williams from side to side for the error. Williams’ serve came to her rescue in that game as she put in a big serve, then aces four and five to hold and for the next half an hour she didn’t look back. With Sharapova serving at 0-5, she led 40-15 before Williams worked her way back in with more killer returns culminating with a Sharapova double fault on game point. Williams hit a casually brilliant backhand winner for set point, then punished the stranded Sharapova at net for the first set.
The question quickly became whether there could be anything Sharapova could do about all this, and equally quickly it became clear that there wasn’t. With her serve utterly neutralised by Williams’ returns, every one either landing back on Sharapova’s shoelaces or placed for a winner down the line seemingly at will, Williams broke to 15 and held to love for a nine-game lead.
Sharapova held to 15, then had her best chance with Williams serving at 3-1. Leading 40-15, a strong return from Sharapova and a double fault led to two break points. Williams’ backhand has been the strongest shot throughout the tournament, but it was her forehand that came to the rescue, saving the first break point with a drive volley and the second with a winner off the ground from that wing. The hold took what remained of Sharapova’s legs out from underneath her and she double-faulted twice to be broken. Williams served out the match with back-to-back aces to become the only player in history to complete a career Golden Slam in singles and doubles.