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Surprise Return
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July 11, 2005
While Roger Federer won his third straight title at Wimbledon, it was the unexpected triumph of a joyful Venus Williams that enchanted the crowds
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July 11, 2005

Surprise Return

While Roger Federer won his third straight title at Wimbledon, it was the unexpected triumph of a joyful Venus Williams that enchanted the crowds

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"I did everything I could," Roddick said. "I tried going to his forehand and coming in; he passed me. I tried to go to his backhand and come in; he passed me. Tried staying back; he figured out a way to pass me, even though I was at the baseline. It's not like I have a lot of questions."

Here's one: What's it like to butt one's head against the game's most impregnable talent? Jim Courier, who struggled similarly against Sampras a decade ago, said, "I think Lleyton feels like Roddick feels: 'How do I get past this guy? I'm looking for an answer, and I don't like what I see in the mirror.' Federer's absolutely the most complete player I've ever seen. When you see him in slow motion, look how loose his jaw is; he's never expending much energy to hit a shot. It's truly magic. I'd pay to see Roger play, and I would not pay to see anyone else. He's that good."

Still, the opposite of a commitment like Federer's can prove just as intriguing. The circuitous route to the top taken by Venus and Serena Williams is nothing that the Swiss star can relate to, yet he says, "I'm always happy when the Williams sisters win. I support them; I don't know why. They can lose, they can win, and they take it the same way. Maybe it's because tennis is not the biggest focus in their lives. But that they still end up winning Grand Slams is great."

What was great for Wimbledon, too, was a final weekend combining Federer and a Williams sister: the state-of-the-art player and the ultimate family drama. A year ago, the night before Serena's demolition by Sharapova in the Wimbledon final, Venus had a nightmare about the match and tried to call Serena but couldn't reach her. This year, the night before the final, Venus made sure she and her sister conversed. As Venus tells it, "She gave me a pep talk: 'You have to want this. That's how I won in Australia. I lost the first set and said it doesn't matter, I want it more. You have to want it more.' So I took all that on the court with me."

That she did. As the match progressed you could see Venus's want and need grow until it blossomed at 6--7, 15--30 in the third set, when she fought through a sprinting sideline-to-sideline 25-stroke rally that she finally took with a shrieking forehand winner. Davenport then stood doubled over on the baseline for 15 seconds, struggling to catch her breath. Venus herself stood heaving, back literally against the wall as the cheers showered down. She didn't realize that she'd just produced one of Wimbledon's great moments.

"I was just thinking, I've got to stay tougher," Venus said afterward. "I've got to stay tougher than whoever's across the net."

Whether Venus can stay hungry is, of course, a question that will be debated for the rest of the year. But Saturday wasn't about that. Saturday on Centre Court was about Venus coming back to herself and the game she once ruled, living out the mad idea that you can actually repeat the past. After her win she opened an e-mail from Serena that read, We're going to the U.S. Open finals together.

Venus yelled, "Yes!"

Who, now, would even think of telling her no?

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