Serena crushes Sharapova to take gold

LONDON - Serena Williams clinched her first Olympic singles gold medal with a 6-0, 6-1 demolition of Maria Sharapova in the most one-sided women's final in the history of the Games on Saturday, August 4.

Williams' victory, which surpassed Suzanne Lenglen's 6-3, 6-0 win over Dorothy Holman in the 1920 final in Antwerp, is the culmination of an incredible grass-court campaign that has brought the American her fifth Wimbledon crown and now the third gold medal of a remarkable career.

The 30-year-old, who has won two doubles gold medals with sister Venus, is just the second woman to win a Golden Slam of all four major titles and singles gold, emulating German legend Steffi Graf, who achieved the feat in 1988 when she won the five titles in the same year.

Serena is also the first woman to complete a Golden Slam in both singles and doubles. And the 14-time Grand Slam champion isn't finished yet.

She could yet leave the All England Club with another gold as she and Venus are through to the doubles semi-finals, where they are due to face Russia's Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova later on Saturday.

Stronger than ever

It is hard to believe that, just two months ago, Serena was being written off as a fading force against her French Open first round exit against Virginie Razzano.

The 30-year-old's reponse to that defeat in Paris has been breathtaking and, whatever the rankings say, there can be no doubt who remains the pre-eminent force in the women's game.

Williams, the world number four didn't surrender a single set in her six Olympic singles matches and lost just 17 games, crushing, amongst others, French Open champion Sharapova, current world number one Victoria Azarenka and two other former world number ones in Caroline Wozniacki and Jelena Jankovic.

After a brief delay when Serena returned to the locker room, leaving Sharapova standing on the baseline waiting to start the match, the American unveiled the weapon that has tormented opponents since she arrived at Wimbledon in June.

Sharapova stunned

Williams hit 162 aces throughout Wimbledon and the Games, where she had dropped serve only once en route to the final, and the American smashed down three of them in the first game of the match.

Sharapova looked shell-shocked by Serena's blistering start and immediately dropped her own serve to love.

That was all the encouragement Serena needed to go for the kill.

She kept peppering Sharapova with ferocious groundstrokes from the baseline and even a player of the world number three's calibre was rendered helpless in the face of such a relentless barrage.

Another break in the fourth game sealed the set for Serena and she kept her foot on the gas in the second set.

Sharapova, who has now lost nine of her 11 meetings with Williams, had a face like thunder as Serena continued her masterclass.

When Serena broke in the second game of the second set it was clear there would be no repeat of Sharapova's famous Wimbledon final win over Williams in 2004.

Now Sharapova's only ambition was to avoid the total humiliation of a whitewash and she did at least manage that, getting on the scoreboard at last after losing nine consecutive games.

But Serena refused to bend any futher and she broke for a 5-1 lead before clinching the gold in 63 minutes with, fittingly, one last thunderous ace. -