Whew. Quite a pace! Not just the athletes who have to go out and be at their best, but the journalists who pant behind them, writing up their deeds not hours after they perform them. Isn’t it, really, all about the journalists?
No, of course not. Though I’ve read more about Andy Murray in the last two days than was written on him in the previous ten years. Journalists are leaping at this story like hungry dogs. It’s the ultimate sports story—can the quiet, rough-hewn, come-from-behind local hero beat the weathered, slick, resilient and brilliant champion? Adjectives and parallels are flying, predictions are also flying, and everyone is wondering, wondering!
The story can almost block out another epic struggle that took place earlier today. The women’s Wimbledon final started routinely enough but became heart-stoppingly suspenseful as two courageous players fought themselves and each other in a highly entertaining three-set display. By now, the story is well known: Serena won. But not easily. Agnieszka Radwanska climbed out of a terrible, embarrassing hole (she almost didn’t get on the scoreboard in set one) to take advantage of a suddenly faltering Serena – incredibly, for a while it looked like she might pull off the upset, as Serena lost her focus and started spraying shots wildly behind lines. In one of those mysterious lapses only professional athletes must be able to understand, she went from perfectly in control to lost and loose for seemingly no reason. Radwanska also lifted her game and took full advantage. At the start of the third set, Serena was still fumbling, and Radwanska still hungrily capitalizing. But at 2-2, Serena found some inner composure and resumed her dominance, not without some more brilliant rallies and shotmaking by the Pole. Williams's serve also started clicking again -- she served one game of four straight aces -- and it was not possible to fight her off after a while. Aga, as disappointed as she was, gave Serena a nice, not-fake-seeming smile at the net when they clasped hands, and that was disarming in a morning full of great things.
- I love how Chris Evert stammers when she tries to describe Serena’s power. “Oh my – [implied expletive], that angle? How could anyone do that?” she gasped after a winner by Serena. Commenting on Serena’s serve, she said, “I had to play Martina Navratilova so I know what it’s like to face a big server. But I could at least play her serve.”
- Mary Jo Hernandez, waiting with her microphone, gave Serena a big, unjournalistc hug before she interviewed her. It was nice to see how wholeheartedly fond and admiring the women tennis stars are toward Serena, since their relationship hasn’t always been that harmonious. Pam Shriver said Serena’s story was the most amazing story in sports. She said it with great emphasis.
- Aga Radwanska is a thrilling player to watch. With her long, springy legs and quick crouch, she moves a bit like a panther, leaping with lightning reflexes to adjust to a new angle of the ball. She’s also very hard to read – she looked thoroughly underwhelmed when she was given the runner-up plate, and held it aloft to the applauding crowd with an expression of bored resignation. I thought she was thinking, “You think this thing satisfies me? I almost won, you dumbasses!” But when Sue Barker asked her a standard opening question, Radwanska replied in a quavering voice that she was so lucky to be there and it had been the best week of her life. It turned out that under her grim, gum-chewing visage she’d been trying not to cry.
- It’s great that this was a close, suspenseful match because of what Gilles Simon said about women’s tennis. For a while in the first set it looked like the standard criticism of the WTA would apply – Radwanska looked completely outclassed, the match looked like a blowout, and you had to wonder how the Pole had even gotten there. By the end it was clear she’d be there again many times, and the women had provided a nail-bitingly suspenseful spectacle. Prenez that, Simon.
- It felt good that Serena was honest with the crowd, breaking into tears as she thanked her family for their support when she was in the hospital with a collapsed lung. Serena has often hidden behind a sunny exterior but today she let people see how hard it’s been for her to come back from all her physical and emotional troubles. As she's pointed out repeatedly to the press, she almost died from the lung incident in 2011, and wasn't sure she would even live, much less play tennis again. The media haven't done much with this story and you get the feeling this bothers Serena quite a lot, since she mentions it pointedly whenever given the opportunity.
But Williams also seems to have decided to embrace the positive side of life, and with her ebullient personality, that doesn't appear to be a stretch for her, especially when she's just won Wimbledon. She is the most overjoyed champion, radiantly basking in the audience's cheers, posing happily for photographers, climbing into the stands to throw herself into the arms of her beaming family. It was a very, very satisfying win for her and her fans, probably much more because she had to fight so hard to get it.