points in a Wimbledon final would be enough to torture even the most mentally
sound player. But Nadal's psyche is as rock-hard as his physique. As if putting
on a set of noise-canceling headphones, he blocked out the distraction and went
back to work. There was a second, 24-minute rain delay in the fifth set, and by
the time Nadal broke Federer at 7--7 it was after 9 p.m. and the balls were
barely visible. "I couldn't see nothing," said Nadal. Still, he coolly
served out the match. "You know how people say, 'It feels like a
dream?'" Nadal later told the Spanish media in his native tongue.
"Winning my first Wimbledon? Beating Federer, the greatest player of all
time? A match like this? How could it not feel like a dream?"
IF THE men's draw
was characterized by regime change, the women's draw featured the reassertion
of familiar powers. Maybe the tennis establishment will finally realize this
truth: The Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, have it all figured out. They're
right; everyone else is wrong. From skipping junior tennis to keeping their
parents as coaches, they've defied tradition at every turn. For most of their
remarkable careers, the sisters have drawn criticism for their outside
interests, which diverted their attention from tennis. As the rest of the women
were maniacally whacking balls and following the WTA's global caravan, Venus
and Serena resembled temp employees, clocking in only when they felt like it.
Despite pressure from the tour and its sponsors to play more events, the
sisters restricted their schedules. If a fashion project or an acting role or a
boyfriend captured their interest, well, Madrid could wait.
Yet most of the
notable workaholics of recent years—Martina Hingis, Kim Clijsters, Justine
Henin—have taken early retirement, driven out by physical and emotional
exhaustion. Venus and Serena, now 28 and 26, respectively, continue to go
strong. The moderation and light scheduling that so many railed against are the
very reasons for their longevity.
Over the fortnight
the sisters cut their usual swath of destruction. Without dropping a set, each
won her first six matches, ensuring that the Wimbledon title would be in the
family for the seventh time since 2000. They blasted groundstrokes with so much
pace that the shots should have come with cartoon bubbles: Pow! Bam! Whap! Both
women covered the court brilliantly, particularly Venus, always the more
graceful of the two. Both hit unanswerable serves, particularly Serena, who
clubbed 57 aces in all. (By comparison, Nadal hit 46.) Both sisters also
returned serve well, intimidating their opponents by standing well inside the
both displayed typically unshakable confidence. Want to know why Venus has
resisted the voguish tennis trend of pumping her fist after every winning shot?
"I expect to win the point," she says. "It's not like if I win the
point it's something I wasn't expecting." When did Serena realize that she
and her sister could become the best two players in the world? "I just
always assumed we would be the best," she says flatly.
remain on a higher plane, unwilling to be drawn into tournament controversies
or tour politics. In the locker room and players' lounge they inhabit their own
orbit, perfectly courteous but only vaguely aware of their colleagues.
Hi, you're Zheng
Jie from China? Great job reaching the semifinals!
You look familiar
from the cafeteria. Remind me again: You're in marketing?
They played last
Saturday's final, Williams-Williams XVI, in windy, tricky conditions. Venus
played with more composure and prevailed 7--5, 6--4 to win her fifth Wimbledon
singles crown and seventh Grand Slam singles trophy, putting her only one
behind Little Sis. Unlike in most of their head-to-head matches, the shotmaking
and court coverage were often brilliant. As always, though, the intrafamily
encounter was awkward and uncomfortable to watch. Unsure for whom to cheer, the
crowd replicated the vibe (and decibel level) of teatime.
how could anyone expect anything else? Exceptionally close, even for sisters,
Venus and Serena shared an apartment during the tournament. They played doubles
together, laughing and kidding each other en route to winning the title for the
third time. For two weeks they talked about men and ate Chinese food and
watched movies together. "[Throughout the year] we don't get to see each
other as much as we would like," says Serena. "If one of us is playing
in another place or has a commitment with one of our sponsors, it's a