Raise your hand if you saw that one coming. No? Only her father? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
In yet another improbable title for this improbable athlete in what became an improbable tournament, Venus Williams became the lowest seeded woman (at #23) to win Wimbledon, overtaking that honor from the previous lowest seed…herself, at #14 in 2005. Had the runner-up, Marion Bartoli, defeated Williams, she would have been the beneficiary of that footnote as the #18 seed.
Yes, #18 vs. #23 for the final of the biggest tournament in tennis. And #18 was considered the underdog. On the men’s side it was again #1 vs. #2. And they complain about the lack of diversity in the women’s game.
The past fortnight has been a wacky one all around due to the rain. Much of the drama and head-scratching, however, were relegated to the women’s side (the men’s draw did produce at least four Match of the Tournament contenders, however). First, there were the two early round matches where the eventual champion was teetering on the edge of defeat against decidedly unheralded players (she then does not lose a set the rest of the way, defeating three of the top six players in the world while doing so). Her sister Serena’s calf injury in the fourth round, leaving her broken and quite literally hobbling on one leg while gutting out the victory (Serena would lose her next match in three tough sets while also not having a working left thumb). Serena’s conquerer Justine Henin being outplayed for the final set and a half by Bartoli, who claimed inspiration by seeing Pierce Brosnan in the crowd. Hey, wouldn’t you?! Eh, maybe. He’s quite handsome still, sure, but Daniel Craig is hotter. That man looks like he’d take you in a bathroom stall, ask for a cigarette, and then saunter off.
So Venus, in the 50th anniversary of Althea Gibson becoming the first black woman to win Wimbledon, finds herself in esteemed company as women who have won Wimbledon at least four times since 1968, when the Open Era began: Martina Navratilova (nine), Steffi Graf (seven), and Billie Jean King (four, plus two more before the Open Era). Venus has 51-7 record at Wimbledon. On Centre Court, she has only ever lost to Serena and who-the-fuck Karolina Sprem. At least one Williams has played in the final in seven of the last eight years, and in that span only twice, in 2004 and 2006, has the Venus Rosewater Dish (yeah, they even share the same name) gone to a non-Williams.
That’s a pretty good narrative for Chez Williams. But we should’ve paid heed to Papa’s bold (and seemingly foolish) prediction that Venus–not Serena–would win Wimbledon this year. Let’s see if this sounds familiar: in 2005, Serena comes out of nowhere to win the Australian Open. Henin then wins a ho-hum French Open. Venus then comes out of nowhere to win Wimbledon. Hm. Now we just need an also-ran to take the U.S. Open as her first grand slam in lieu of I’m-so-happy-to-be-a-housewife Kim Clijsters. Let’s go, Elena Dementieva!