Jul 9 2012 By Colin Mackenzie
Serena Williams capped an extraordinary comeback - virtually from her deathbed - when winning a topsy-turvy Women's Final at Wimbledon yesterday. In a curate's egg of a match what looked like being a humiliation of her opponent Agnieszka Radwanska turned into a nailbiter of a Final
Williams, 30, who survived a pulmonary embolism that required surgery to remove a blood clot from her lung 15 months ago, was 5-0 up in the first set and coasting to the fastest victory in the history of women's tennis at Wimbledon. Finally Radwanksa won a game, to the relief of the 15,000 Centre Court spectators, before Williams closed the set at 6-1.
Following a 23 minute rain break the players returned and the 23-year-old Pole appeared to be a different person. Although suffering herself from a respiratory infection she began to return the ball better and Williams famed first serve began to betray her. She even served four double faults.
Williams broke serve to go 4-2 up but was then herself broken twice for Radwanksa to claim the second set 7-5. At last we had a match to savour. The young Pole, who had appeared nervous in the first set, was now a confident young lady, anxious to keep the ball in play and forcing Williams to play one extra shot.
At 2-1 up in the final set Radwanska must have allowed herself the luxury of dreaming of the Venus Rosewater Dish which is presented to the winner. But suddenly Williams rediscovered her first serve, despatching four aces in a row to level the match at 2-2.
From then on the four times Wimbledon champion was unstoppable, returning to her form of the first set, crushing her opponent's serve with fierce returns and herself serving unstoppable bullets. Within a matter of minutes the cruelty was over, as if a boxing referee had cried enough.
Extraordinarily enough Williams had enough energy left, under the Centre Court roof late into the evening, to come out with sister Venus and complete a fantastic comeback with a victory over the Czech pair of Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka in the women's doubles by 7-5, 6-4.
For Serena, knocked out of the French championships only five weeks ago in the first round, this was her vindication, her statement of intent that she can add to the 13 Grand Slam singles titles she has acquired during her 14-year career. It was a triumph for Venus too as she has been diagnosed with Sjogren's Syndrome which causes extreme fatigue.
Serena said; "Oh my Lord - I can't even describe it. I almost didn't make it a few years ago from the hospital bed and here I am. It's amazing. I never dreamed of being here again. But you never give up - you just continue."
It's almost as if Wimbledon, the archetypal middle England venue with its middle class values, is tailor made for the Williams sisters, born on the wrong side of the tracks in downtown Los Angeles. They love the grass surface, they adore the unique ambience and, with the passage of time, they have won their way into the hearts of British tennis fans.
Another who has is Sheffield-based Jonny Marray who, with his Danish partner Freddy Nielson, won a captivating Men's doubles Final under the Centre Court roof, beating No 5 seeds and double runners-up in the past two years Robert Lindstedt and Horia Tecau by 4-6, 6-4, 7-6, 6-7, 6-3.
The 31-year-old, who was born in Liverpool, even brought an old-fashioned moment of sportmanship to the match when he alerted the umpire to the fact that he had touched the net with his racket when going 5-0 up in the third set tiebreak. The score was amended to 4-1. But virtue won the day.
As if they weren't already supporting the Brit/Dane partnership this gesture endeared them to the crowd even more. The pair, who had played together only four times previously and were given a wild card entry to the tournament, are now qualified for future Grand Slams and even the lucrative end of season tournament at London's O2 stadium.
Marray, the epitome of a journeyman tennis player, who has been playing the Challenger and satellite circuits for the last 11 years, won £130,000 with this victory. He has averaged winnings of no more than £23,000 per year until now. Truly a transforming moment for this likeable fellow whose partner is the grandson of the dual singles finalist of the 1950s Kurt Nielson.
Marray said; "Obviously I didn't think we could ever win. When we lost the fourth set (having been so close to winning that tiebreak at 5-2 up) we couldn't believe it. We had been so close but we told each other "stay calm and dig deep."
Marray became the first Brit since 1936 to win this title. By concidence this was the same year that Fred Perry won the last of his singles titles.