Summers used to be difficult for Serena Williams, whose dad made her and elder sister Venus practice twice daily on the public tennis courts of the Los Angeles suburb of Compton.
Williams raised 13 fingers yesterday to her father, Richard, on the Centre Court of Wimbledon after beating Russia’s Vera Zvonareva 6-3, 6-2 for her fourth trophy on the London grass courts. Her 13th Grand Slam singles title moved her one ahead of mentor Billie Jean King, who applauded the American from the Royal Box.
“I hated the summers, because I think we had two practices a day,” Williams said after the match in an interview with a small group of reporters.
“We would always go in the morning, from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., and then we would have lunch at the park and then right after lunch we’d go back to practice. It was tough. But when you’re that young, you don’t really think about it. At the time, my dad would go sometimes next door to the liquor store to buy us the latest sports drink. It’s all those memories and all that hard work that you just never forget. And, eventually, it pays off.”
At least one of the sisters has appeared in 10 of the last 11 Wimbledon finals.
Serena also won in 2002, 2003 and 2009. Venus won her fifth title in 2008, beating her younger sister. In the past decade, only Russia’s Maria Sharapova in 2004 and Amelie Mauresmo of France in 2006 have broken the Williams’s domination.
Top-ranked Rafael Nadal of Spain will be seeking his second Wimbledon title today in the men’s final against No. 12 Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic. Nadal has a 13-match winning streak at Wimbledon.
Williams said she dedicated her fourth championship to her serve. The No. 1-ranked player on the WTA Tour produced a new Wimbledon women’s record of 89 aces on her way to the title. She faced no break points against Zvonareva in the final.
“The French Open is why my serve is so good, because I thought I served so bad in my quarterfinal match,” Williams said.
After she blew a match point and lost to eventual Roland Garros finalist Samantha Stosur of Australia in three sets, Williams flew home right away.
“I usually take a day off,” Williams said. “But I went straight home, and said I’m going to have to work on my serve because if I serve like this again, I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be out here.”
Williams now ranks sixth on the career list of major winners. She is five Grand Slam titles behind Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova. Margaret Smith Court holds the record at 24, followed by Steffi Graf with 22 and Helen Wills Moody with 19.
Navratilova, a nine-time Wimbledon champion, told the British Broadcasting Corp. yesterday that Williams, 28, is “just head and shoulders above anyone else,” and that she might catch Graf.
Williams doesn’t want to set such targets for herself.
“I’m still in my career, and I never look outside of it while I’m in it because I don’t want to be like, ‘Oh wow, I’ve done that, and I’ve done that,’” she said. “Because then I can become happy and satisfied, and I will probably lose my desire. I just really try to live in the moment and live for the day, and not think too much.”
Williams said she celebrated by dancing around the clubhouse holding the champion’s Venus Rosewater dish, with Frank Sinatra singing “Fly Me to the Moon” in her head.
‘My Lucky Number’
“Billie Jean, I got you,” she told her mentor during the prize ceremony after ending the 67-minute match with a smash. “This is No. 13 for me now. It’s actually my lucky number.”
Williams, who also triumphed at the Australian Open in late January, spoke to King after yesterday’s victory.
“She just said good job, and she said she was proud of me, and to keep going,” Williams said. “Go out there and win some more.”