WIMBLEDON, England – Serena Williams had been dreaming of this moment all her life. Now here it was.
She was standing on top of a Centre Court podium, the gold in women’s singles around her neck, “The Star Spangled Banner” playing loud and her eyes locked on the American flag raising triumphantly in the air.
Suddenly, one of those powerful gusts of British wind came through, the flag came undone and, without warning, the Stars and Stripes began floating through the air, right toward the tennis great.
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“I just saw all these gusts of winds,” Williams later said as she began to laugh. “Then I saw the flag flying. It was probably flying to hug me … It was fluttering towards me trying to wrap its fabric around me.”
She kept smiling at the memory. It was, perhaps, the only mishap of a day in which she simply annihilated Maria Sharapova, 6-0, 6-1 in just 63 minutes to seize that long-awaited gold medal.
She started the day by putting her hair up in a gold scrunchie: “I did it on purpose.” She ended it by blasting a 121 mile-per-hour serve past Sharapova and immediately breaking into some kind of celebratory dance like she was 6 years old: “I didn’t plan that.”
This was complete dominance by Williams, who, over the last few years recovered from injuries she feared would end her career to return to the top of her sport. And that included the Olympics.
Williams owns 14 major championships as a professional and has earned more prize money,nearly ($40 million) than any other female player. Yet despite owning two doubles gold medals (2000, 2008) she desperately wanted a singles gold to give her what she called “the golden slam.”
So she attacked this tournament like it was Wimbledon, which she’s won five times including just a few weeks ago. She didn’t lose a single set during the games and barely needed an hour to win each of her medal-round matches.