American Serena Williams stormed her way to an Olympic gold medal Saturday, dominating the final against Maria Sharapova of Russia. It is the first individual gold medal for Williams, who has twice won in Olympic doubles.
Williams won the first set, 6-0, in only 30 minutes. She hit only a handful of unforced errors in each set, and feasted on Sharapova's second serve. She won the second set by 6-1, with the entire match taking only a bit more than an hour to complete.
Williams' march to the podium seemed to be at risk of a possible delay when Sharapova manufactured a break point against Williams, thanks in part to a double-fault. But the American found another level of focus, hitting angled shots with such force that Sharapova had no chance to return them.
Video replays gave Sharapova no help either, as a crucial shot by Williams was shown to to have ticked the chalk. Looking up at the replay screen from the grass on Wimbledon's Centre Court, Sharapova's face seemed to be drained of hope as the ball was confirmed to have landed inside the line.
Down 5-1 in the second set, Sharapova showed a further refusal to submit to what by then seemed inevitable, nailing a long baseline down the line for a winner. But even when she engaged Williams in a long, scrambling point, the American found a way to fire the ball well past her reach.
And then, with Williams serving at 5-1 in the second set and up 30-15, she ripped a second serve straight down the center line for an ace, with Sharapova helpless to reach the ball. One point later, it was curtains, and Williams was shrieking in joy, jumping up and down, waving to the crowd, and even dancing a bit.
Sharapova often took time to compose herself between points, seemingly frustrated by her inability to make a dent in Williams' game. By contrast, the American maintained a calm and focused look, only occasionally letting out a yell to hint at how her emotions were building as she neared one of the few remaining landmarks she hadn't yet reached in a storied career.
After the match, Williams seemed at a loss for words to describe her feat, which she accomplished by losing only 17 games throughout the Olympic tournament. She gave Sharapova credit for fighting hard in the match.
"I don't feel invincible," Williams said. "I just feel good about my game. I just practiced so hard, and it was time."