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Saturday, August 4, 2012
Serena Williams nearly perfect in final

By Bonnie D. Ford



LONDON -- The Olympic women's singles final provided a double dose of something you don't see every day: namely, a championship match in which a player wins only one game and a medal ceremony in which a flag takes flight.

Serena Williams continued her dominant season by winning her 17th straight match. This title might be the last "first'' of her sensational career, giving her the so-called Golden Slam collection of all four Grand Slam event titles plus Olympic gold. She has two Olympics doubles titles, as well -- perhaps Platinum Slam would be a better label? -- and will try for a third with sister Venus this weekend.

Serena's crushing 6-0, 6-1 win over Russia's Maria Sharapova was surprising in some regards, given that both are Wimbledon champions and know the turf on Centre Court very well. But it was no shock in the context of their career series. Williams now leads that 9-2, but Sharapova's two wins came in 2004, and she has not taken a set from Williams since 2008 on green clay in Charleston, S.C.

Brisk wind is never a good thing for Sharapova's high ball toss and fickle serve, but, even in perfect conditions on a full-throttle day, it might have been difficult for anyone to break through the combination of power and focus Williams displayed.

During the medal ceremony, wind pulled the U.S. flag from its moorings on a horizontal flagpole; it drifted down into the stands, drawing gasps from the crowd and startling the three women on the podium. "It was probably flying to come hug me -- fluttering toward me trying to wrap its fabric around me,” said Williams, who bounced up and down ebulliently and even threw a few dance moves after nailing an ace on match point.

Williams did not drop a set en route to gold, and no opponent won more than three games in a set against her.