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No rest for Serena Williams before Olympics
“She’s proven herself to be a great champion,” Roddick said during a conference call Tuesday before a tournament in Atlanta. “She’s almost become a master of comebacks. I remember when, what, four or five years ago, she was below 100 in the world? People were wondering if that was it. She came back and dominated.”
Seemingly with ease, too.
What has propelled Williams more than anything is her serve. She broke her own Wimbledon record for aces in a match with 23 against Zheng Jie in the third round. Less than a week later, she eclipsed that mark with 24 against Victoria Azarenka in the semifinals and finished with 102 for the tournament.
Williams tossed a football around the Stanford courts Tuesday before practicing her serve _ a motion her father, Richard, has said is similar to her racket swing. She used to toss the ball around as a kid, too.
Age hasn’t slowed down Williams yet.
She is the first woman in her 30s to win Wimbledon since Martina Navratilova took home the title in 1990 at age 33. If she stays healthy, Williams has a chance to match Navratilova’s total of 18 Grand Slam titles as well. Only Steffi Graf with 22 major championships has more.
“I’ve actually never felt this fit and this good in my entire life,” Williams said. “It’s really, really, really weird but I’ve never felt this good.”
She could not have said that a year ago.
Williams walked onto the court at Stanford as the favorite then, but hardly the clear-cut choice she once was _ especially entering the fall’s U.S. Open, where she lost in the finals to Samantha Stosur. Now that punishing serve is back, and so are those hard-hitting strokes and fleet footwork that propelled Williams to the top of women’s tennis.
Not to mention that aura of invincibility.
Bartoli also is back in the field at Stanford as the No. 2 seed. Third-seeded Dominika Cibulkova and fourth-seeded Jelena Jankovic, both looking to shake off first-round losses at Wimbledon, figure to round out Williams‘ top competition.
In another example of how much has changed, Bartoli beat the former world No. 1 in straight sets in the fourth round at Wimbledon last year. Then Williams whipped the Frenchwoman in straight sets in the finals at Stanford.
“I’m glad I was able to play against her last year at Wimbledon because I think that was my best chance to ever beat her,” Bartoli said. “I predicted that last year here at Stanford. And I think my prediction was kind of right.”
By Mangosuthu Buthelezi
Memories of a long brotherhood tempered in common struggle
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