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- How We Got Here - Chapter 2: Home in The DomeAugust 16, 1994
Naturally, shelling out roughly $150 million for a roof was a great way to ensure days upon days of cloudless skies. For a week, anyway, Wimbledon 2009 was in danger of being spoiled by pleasant weather. But when the heavens finally opened (barely) on the evening of June 29, the roof at last closed. A crowd of 15,000 stared upward in silent awe, as if glimpsing the Sistine Chapel for the first time, while 3,000 tons of steel trusses, translucent fabric panels and lights unfurled 50 feet above the grass court. It was Murray who played the first full Wimbledon match indoors—and the first night match at the All England Club—defeating Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka in five gripping sets. Then it was back to six more days of tennis entirely al fresco.
Together, Federer and Nadal have won 19 of the last 21 men's major singles titles. In the women's game, meanwhile, there has been an almost equally potent duopoly. Serena Williams beat her sister Venus in the 2009 Wimbledon women's final, the eighth time this decade that the name WILLIAMS has been engraved on the winners' board. At some level, yes, we've been there, done that, bought the snow globe. But really, does this story ever get old? Two sisters who once shared a bedroom in Compton are now passing their sport's biggest titles back and forth, as if sharing a Sno-Cone in the backseat of the family car. They've matured. They've endured the murder of a sibling. Their parents have divorced, and their father recently remarried. Still, they keep plowing through the field.
The boxing brothers, Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko, both heavyweight champs, won't dare fight each other. With no bloodletting in tennis the Williams sisters reluctantly face off. Their intrafamily matches are generally hollow affairs, long on heavy hitting and short on tension, and last Saturday's final was no exception. Serena dialed in her serve and prevailed 7--6, 6--2 to win her 11th Grand Slam singles title.
Praise of the sisters tends to ride tandem with complaints that their WTA colleagues offer too little resistance, and for five rounds at Wimbledon neither Williams came close to dropping a set. In the semifinals Venus took on Dinara Safina of Russia, the top-ranked player in women's tennis—repeat: the top-ranked player in women's tennis—and woodshedded her 6--1, 6--0. The match was so one-sided that even Venus's mother, Oracene Price, began to nap midway through. "She gave me a pretty good lesson today," Safina said afterward. In the same round, however, another Russian, Elena Dementieva, held match point against Serena. She couldn't close the deal. "Someone," says Martina Navratilova, "needs to step up against them."
But a more accurate assessment goes something like this: Venus is an exceptional grass-court player whose heat-seeking strokes and fluid movement are enhanced by the green stuff underfoot. And Serena may simply be the fiercest competitor in sports. Facing that match point to Dementieva on her own serve in the third set, Serena attacked and hit a backhand volley that nicked the net and fell into the open court for a winner. Was that how she'd planned the point? "I thought I was gonna hit an ace," Serena says. "The next thing I know, I was at the net. That's all I remember, really." Who else thinks like this?
Serena may not sweat her results in Stuttgart or Strasbourg, but when the majors roll around, she plays as though losing takes its toll in blood. Over the last 10 months she has won three titles: the 2008 U.S. Open, the 2009 Australian Open and now Wimbledon. "[She's] two completely different players," says Dementieva, "when she's playing Grand Slams or she's playing other tournaments."
As if to punctuate their dominance, the sisters won the Wimbledon doubles title without dropping a set. And, to the dismay of their competition, they're not going away anytime soon. "We've talked about playing the 2012 Olympics," says Venus. "And we've talked about playing doubles in the 2016 [Games if they go] to Chicago."
Same for Federer. In spite of breaking the Grand Slam singles record, getting married and expecting a child, he claims to be as motivated as ever. "Mirka's dream was always that our child can see me play," he says. "So there you go. I have to play a few more years just because of Mirka."
Minutes after Sunday's final, Federer slipped on a new jacket gaudily embroidered with a gold 15, commemorating his record—one last touch of regal imagery. As his expectant wife waited back at the rental house, he went through the usual ceremonies and interviews and then left the grounds en route to the Champions Ball. It may have been dark outside, but the sun hasn't set on his empire.
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