|Aug 05||Williams Sisters: Thrice as Nice|
WIMBLEDON — Serena Williams completed a Golden Slam yesterday, winning an Olympic gold medal in singles to go with her 14 Grand Slam titles.
Today, she met her real goal: Olympic gold in doubles with sister Venus.
“Venus has been going through so much, and she’s so strong and so amazing,” said Serena after the match, referring to her sister’s struggle with Sjögren’s Syndrome, an autoimmune disease with no cure. “My goal all year was to get to the Olympics and win doubles gold,” said Serena. “I wanted to win singles, but my main goal was to win doubles, and I said that in every press conference. It really is a dream come true.”
This is the Williams sisters’ third doubles gold. They won at the 2000 and 2008 Olympics as well. But for Venus, it was the sweetest.
“The first one I didn’t realize what was happening,” said Venus before the medal ceremony. “The second one, I realized what was happening. But this one it was definitely a fight. I can’t wait to touch the medal and put it around my neck.”
It wasn’t just a fight on the court to win against the Czech duo of Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka. It was a fight for Venus, 32, to even make it to the Olympics.
While younger sis Serena, 30, was climbing back into form after injuring her foot in 2010, Venus was struggling just to get out of bed. She withdrew from the 2011 U.S. Open after she was diagnosed with the illness. When she returned to the court in March 2012, she was ranked 134th in singles.
To make the 2012 Olympic team, Venus would have to make the top 56 by the end of May.
“Boy, was that a battle,” she said. “That was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.”
Match by match, she pulled her ranking back. By the eve of the French Open in May, the New York Times reported that she was ranked 53rd. In June, the U.S. Olympic tennis team was announced, and Venus’s name was on it.
At Wimbledon for the 2012 Olympics, Venus lost in the singles matches early – though was happy with how she played – then cheered from the box as her sister kept swinging for singles gold. Yesterday, Serena dominated Maria Sharapova for the singles gold medal.
“I’ve just been focused only on tennis, nothing else,” said Serena. “No distractions, no life. My life is practice in the morning and train in the afternoon. I’ve definitely spent more time on the tennis court. I have a nothing-to-lose attitude.”
Then today, before the much-anticipated Federer/Murray gold medal match, the two sisters took to Center Court. Venus’s hair was pulled back in a bun of red, white, and blue braids.
Across the court, they faced Hlavackova and Hradecka, the 2011 French Open doubles champion. A month ago at Wimbleon, the sisters beat the same duo in a tight final (7-5, 6-4). The only difference now was the lack of the traditional Wimbledon white.
Again, it was a close match, and the pro-Czech crowd cheered every time Hlavackova and Hradecka won a point. But with five aces in the second set, the Williams sisters pulled it off, 6-4, 6-4, winning their third Olympic gold medal — and fifth for the family overall (with Serena’s singles gold and Venus’s singles gold from the 2000 Games).
“We’ve been winning this title since 2000, but it’s easier said than done,” said Venus. “We came in as the favorites, but it’s not a given. We fought hard. Our opponents played well, and they’re very talented. We’re glad to keep the medal for us.”
Though both women are now in their 30s, retirement is far from their minds.
“I had a great event here in singles and doubles,” said Venus. “Every day, I’m on the road to be better and better. I feel like I actually hit a high here. I just want to keep getting better.”
Both women are headed to the U.S. Open Series back in the States now. And they are even thinking beyond.
“I’ve always been thinking Rio,” said Venus. “I think that would be a great way to go out on a high note. I’ve got four more years of great tennis ahead of me.”
“I’ll be there if I’m healthy,” added Serena. “I’ll still be playing by then, 100 percent. I have titles to defend!”
In mixed doubles' first appearance at the Olympics since 1924, Lisa Raymond and Mike Bryan came back in a third set tiebreaker to beat Christopher Kas and Sabine Lisicki from Germany for the bronze medal on Centre Court (6-3, 4-6, 10-4) . Earlier in the day, Victoria Azarenka and Max Mirnyi from Belarus defeated Andy Murray -- fresh (or not!) from his singles gold -- and Laura Robson for the gold. The mixed doubles bronze made up for Raymond's loss in the women's doubles bronze medal match, held right before the mixed doubles bronze match. She was teamed with Liezel Huber and the two fell to the Russian pair of Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova, 6-4, 4-6, 1-6.
Peggy Shinn is a freelance contributor for TeamUSA.org. This story was not subject to the approval of the United States Olympic Committee or any National Governing Bodies.