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Page last updated at 21:57 GMT, Saturday, 5 July 2008 22:57 UK

Navratilova verdict on women's final

Martina Navratilova
By Martina Navratilova
Nine-time Wimbledon champion

In beating her sister Serena, Venus Williams has joined the small group of women to have won a Grand Slam tournament five times, but she has been a great champion for a long time.

For me, what sets this triumph apart is that Venus, the reigning champion, defended her title when really it looked like her career was over.

A couple of years ago you thought to yourself, 'she's finished; maybe Serena can make a comeback but Venus is probably going to focus on her fashion interests or do something else'.

But here she is winning back-to-back Wimbledon titles. Despite what many detractors have said, it's obvious that both girls are still enjoying the game and want to get back to the top, which breathes new life into the women's game.

Venus and Serena Williams
Both players are still very much a force - they can lift their games for the big occasions and that's what makes a champion a champion

Martina Navratilova

Things on the women's side have been a bit strange recently because Justine Henin was the favourite in every match she played but suddenly she retired and there was a hole.

Sharapova played great at the Australian Open but she's been stagnating. Ana Ivanovic won the French Open but then totally deflated here at Wimbledon.

But the all-Williams final shows women's tennis is looking in good shape because we've got two superstars back in the fold and they could end up number one by the end of the year.

The women's game is wide open now and whoever is going to be a Grand Slam champion will have to play great tennis and earn it rather than win by default because somebody else is not playing well.

The final itself was an exhibition of fantastic tennis. None of the six Grand Slam finals Venus and Serena had previously contested had been great matches but I had a feeling they were finally going to play a good final and that's what we got.

At the beginning you could only see there being one winner. Serena came out hitting the ball so hard, the pace on her shots was unbelievable and we thought 'if she keeps this up the match is over' but she couldn't.

There was a very gusty wind on Centre Court but Venus figured out how best to handle it.

The harder she hit the ball and the harder she served, the more Serena liked it but when she combined spin with the bounce and the wind it was much more effective and that's when she turned the match around.

606: DEBATE
Federersagod
The key thereafter was consistency. Serena hit more winners but Venus kept the ball in play better and, as her sister began to get down on herself mentally, she remained very calm and focused throughout.

Another massive difference was the percentage of points won on the second serve - Serena finished with a shocking 23% compared to Venus's 56%. And break-point conversion - two out of 13 for Serena compared to four of seven for Venus - was also key.

Comparing the sisters, I felt Serena was a little too negative; she chose not to come to the net as much as Venus, who when she did, volleyed better.

You can't afford to be negative, especially in a final, because the slightest bit of negativity can be enough to lose you the match and that's exactly what happened for Serena.

In the first set Venus was struggling but for some reason Serena stopped moving forward - it was like there was a wall on the baseline and she didn't want to step over it. She started reaching forward for it and hitting the net.

Venus kept her head, didn't let anything bother her and just kept thinking about the next point. She began to impose herself more and more, allowing her technique and belief in her ability to pull her through.

But what was clear was that both players are still very much a force - they can lift their games for the big occasions and that's what makes a champion a champion.

Martina Navratilova was speaking on BBC One


see also
Wimbledon day 12 as it happened
05 Jul 08 |  Tennis
Wimbledon photos
05 Jul 08 |  Tennis


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