In our series on the best tennis players of the past 50 years, we consider the American who swept all before her time and again
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You could build Serena Williams’s pedestal from her records. Pile up the 23 grand slam singles titles, more than anyone else has won in the Open era, and her 16 grand slam doubles titles, too. Add it to the 319 weeks she spent at the top of the world rankings, eight spells spread across 15 years, the longest stretch 186 weeks in a row. Combine it with the first “Serena slam” she won in 2002-03, all four majors back-to-back, and the second, when she did it all over again in 2014-15. Throw in the four gold medals she has won at the Olympics. You could keep on, until you had filled this page and the next with her achievements.
Related: Four decades, 73 singles titles: Serena Williams’s epic journey | Tumaini Carayol
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At last the whiff of cordite. Serena and Venus Williams, whose combative natures have deserted them in the past when they have confronted each other across the net, produced a Wimbledon women’s final during which you half expected gun smoke to drift across Centre Court. After 78 minutes of serious ball-bashing, Serena won 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 to depose her older sister as champion and become the first player since Steffi Graf in 1996 to complete the exacting double of capturing the French Open on clay and the Wimbledon title on grass in the space of a month.
None of their eight previous meetings, three of them won by Serena, had convinced sceptics that the American siblings did not view their matches as glorified practice sessions. More the whiff of damp squibs than cordite. Here, though, under brightening skies, was a contest of genuine fury that finally offered hope that the long sequence of finals we can look forward to between the world’s top-ranked players – Serena will overtake Venus to move up to number one tomorrow – will be worthy of our anticipation. Yesterday, Serena, who at 20 is 15 months younger than her sister, dropped her racket to the turf in her moment of victory and stood rooted to the spot for a few seconds. With the sun now glinting on the tiara that she wears to keep her blonde tresses in place, she then waved to the crowd, cast a glance at her mother Oracene sat in the stands and ran forward to put a consoling arm round Venus’s shoulders, her joy at winning her third grand-slam title – she also won the 1999 US Open – diluted by the fact that her best friend had just lost.