Usually, 6-1 6-2 drubbings aren’t even considered noteworthy. Especially in Women’s tennis where they seem to happen so frequently in Grand Slam finals, and are usually met with the same ol’, same ol’ skepticism. But if there ever was a beatdown that has bypassed the usual rules, heading straight into the history books, it’s the 2007 final between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova. Why? There are just so many reasons. Too many reasons.
We all know the story. At the end of 2003, Serena’s sister Yetunde Price was murdered. In 2005, after being sidelined with some physical problems, those emotional grievances came to the surface. She fell into depression, and that depression spilled over into 2006 as she steered clear of tennis and steadily gained weight. After only playing a handful of events in 2006, she arrived in Australia overweight and with only a loss to Sybille Bammer in Hobart as preparation for the Grand Slam. The press criticized her, attacking her weight, commitment, Chris Evert was writing an “open letter” to her, and Nike officials even threatened her with the dissolution of her contract. It was absolute mayhem.
In the two weeks that followed, an incredible transformation took place as she gradually shook off the rust from her game and visibly lost weight with seemingly every match that passed. With 5 seeded scalps to her name, Serena fought her way all the way to the final against top-seeded Maria Sharapova. Still, people gave Serena zero chance of defeating Maria. No way, they said. Serena had completely exceeded expectations, sure, but Maria was just on a different level to any of Serena’s previous opponents. They were right about that, and so what did Serena do? She stood up to the occasion, elevated her level and went out into the final all guns blazing. Just over an hour later and we had witnessed one of the greatest performances in the history of the game. If not “the” greatest. It was sheer perfection – serve, return, defence, offence, netplay, mentality – everything was absolutely perfect. She was so good that Maria had to fight tooth and nail just for those three games.
The speeches (1:13 onwards) that took place afterwards only enhanced the occasion. Maria went out first, and she was the epitome of class as she congratulated Serena and told self-deprecating joke after self-deprecating joke. She ended with hoping that she would take the title the next year which, of course, she did. Then Serena came out. So many times we see Serena guarded and weary of cameras, but after all of her excited thank you’s, she took a deep breath and, while holding back tears, dedicated the victory to Yetunde. It was touching, heartfelt and one of those poignant memories that you just don’t forget.