WIMBLEDON, England -- Serena Williams picked out a gold scrunchie to tie back her hair for the Olympic women’s singles tennis final, remembering Michael Johnson and his gold shoes at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games.
She chooses her accessories well. A little more than an hour after taking Centre Court, Williams was wearing gold around her neck, too.
She achieved the elusive Golden Slam — winning all four major tournaments plus the Olympic gold medal — with the most dominating singles win in Games history. Overcoming windy conditions at the All-England Lawn Tennis Club, Williams blew Russian Maria Sharapova off the court 6-0, 6-1 in 63 minutes.
“I’ve always wanted to win a gold medal secretly,” said Williams, 30, who had already won two Olympic doubles golds (2000 and 2008) with older sister, Venus, and will compete for a third doubles title Sunday. Serena became the first American woman to win the Olympic singles crown since 2000 when her sister, Venus, was the champion.
“I’ve always said it doesn’t matter because I already have a gold medal — and I really believed that and I really felt that — but deep, deep, deep, deep down I wanted it in singles as well and I got it! It’s such an amazing feeling. I can’t compare it. I have it. I have them all.”
She threw her arms up. “So it’s a great feeling!”
Williams, who won her 14th career Grand Slam on the same court at Wimbledon in July, said that by capturing an individual medal, now she’ll be mentioned with “all the greats for the rest of your life.” When she and Venus were growing up, their father would show them videos of Greg Louganis and Carl Lewis and other Olympic champions.
“You know, the Olympics have been my whole life and watching it’s been so cool,” Williams said, “so to have a gold medal like those guys and — hello! Michael Phelps! — OK, what do I have? I have three, so he has 21 now. The guy’s an animal.”
Williams said she has never met Phelps, even though she has been on three Olympic teams with him. “I was in the Village the other day and I passed by him, but I’m really shy … and he didn’t see me.”
During the victory ceremony, it looked like the American flag was trying to make Williams’ acquaintance. As the anthem played, Old Glory suddenly broke free and fluttered toward her on the podium before disappearing behind a wall. The crowd gasped, but Williams just shrugged.
“I just saw all these gusts of wind and then you see the flag flying, and you’re like, ‘Oh.’ It was probably flying to come hug me because the flag was so happy,” Williams said. “It didn’t quite make it, but almost.
“It was fluttering towards me, trying to wrap its fabric around me.”
The flag stayed put when brothers Bob and Mike Bryan won the Olympic doubles title a few hours later. The Bryan brothers are three-time Olympians and earned the bronze medal four years ago in Beijing. The Bryan brothers beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Michael Llodra of France 6-4, 7-6 (2).
‘‘We've spent 50,000 hours together, and probably 30,000 on the court, working our butts off to get here,” Bob Bryan said.
Both the Bryan brothers and Serena now have completed the career Golden Slam, meaning they have won all four majors and the Olympic gold medal.
Williams is only the second woman to complete a career Golden Slam, joining Steffi Graf, who won all five tournaments in 1988. Andre Agassi and Rafael Nadal have also accomplished the feat, but by winning tournaments in different years.
Williams is on a 17-match winning streak since her shocking first-round loss to Virginie Razzano at the French Open and easily dispatched No. 1 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus 6-1, 6-2, in the semifinals.
She won 10 points before Sharapova scored her first.
“She has such great form,” said Sharapova, who won the French Open to complete her own career Grand Slam in June. “She was just too stubborn, too strong for me today.”
Although Sharapova is ranked No. 3 in the world, one spot higher than Williams, she was no match for Williams, whom she has not beaten since 2004. Williams now holds a 9-2 career edge.
Williams had seven aces in the first set — three in the first game, including one on a second serve — and 24 winners compared to only six winners for Sharapova.
“I don’t even know if it was domination; it was just me being really focused,” Williams said, adding with a laugh. “And just I think the grass suits me.”
Williams, who grew up in California and now calls Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., home, said that when facing a great player like Sharapova, you have to “come ready to play.”
And she did.
Going into the match, Williams told herself, “I’m going to play my heart out and whatever happens, at least I know I did my best.
“It all came together.”
After serving two aces to finish off the match, Williams started jumping up and down, then did an impromptu dance.
“I didn’t know what else to do,” said Williams, who also did a little strut before getting on the victory podium. “I was so happy, the next thing I know, I started bouncing and moving and I didn’t plan it. It just happened.”
Later that afternoon, she and Venus defeated Nadia Petrova and Maria Kirilenko of Russia 7-5, 6-4, to advance to the doubles final against Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka of Czech Republic.
Two years ago, Williams had wondered if she’d ever play tennis again after health issues forced her to take almost a year off following her 2010 Wimbledon victory. She had foot surgeries and an operation to remove blood clots in her lungs.
“I just thought I wanted to get out of that hospital,” Williams said, “and then one day I called and I was like, ‘I think I can start practicing again,’ and it kind of worked out after that.”
Injuries, Williams said, have been “disastrous” for her. “I feel like I could have more Slams and more stuff. I also think that I was fortunate enough to survive literally what I went through and it made me a better person and possibly even a better player.
“Who knows if I would have had this desire to do well and to play? So I really do believe things all happen for a reason and I’m happy I was able to get up from that and then inspire other people who go through that.”
Her next goals? To win mixed doubles at the Australian and French Opens.
“And Rio, that’s my goal. I need to get there. Rio!” she said of the 2016 Olympic Games.
An avid pin trader, Williams loves even the smallest aspects of the Games.
“My Olympic experience has been amazing,” she said. “After my match I got like five pins … I got Denmark for my teammate who didn’t have it. I got a lot of stuff, I was excited.
“I always collect pins and then I put my medal in the center. I can’t believe I won a gold medal!”
Karen Rosen is a freelance contributor for TeamUSAorg. This story was not subject to the approval of any National Governing Bodies.