Wimbledon crown for Venus

Wimbledon, July 7:

Venus Williams won her fourth Wimbledon title on Saturday.

The heavily favoured Williams beat surprising finalist Marion Bartoli 6-4, 6-1 for her sixth Grand Slam title. She also won Wimbledon in 2000, 2001 and 2005.

At No 31, Williams became the lowest-ranked women’s winner in Wimbledon history. Plagued in recent years by injuries that sent her ranking sliding, she rediscovered her championship form this week at the All England Club.

En route to the final she lost a total of 17 games while beating 2004 Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova, 2004 US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova and French Open runner-up Ana Ivanovic.

Williams’ resurgence was reminiscent of the run to this year’s Australian Open title by her sister Serena, who entered that tournament ranked 81st.

Serena, eliminated by Justine Henin in the quarter-finals, watched from the stands as Venus turned in a workmanlike performance punctuated by occasional brilliance.

She chased down shots all over the court, and her varied shotmaking ranged from delicate slices to a fearsome backhand overhead slam. Williams served out the first game at love, then broke when Bartoli double-faulted. They played 19 minutes before Bartoli won a game to make it 3-1, prompting cheers of encouragement from a Centre Court crowd eager for a competitive match.

And it was — for a while. The Frenchwoman, playing in her first Grand Slam final, settled down to reach 3-all. But she double-faulted for the fourth time for set point, and Williams converted by charging forward to put away a backhand volley.

She kept up the pressure to start the second set, winning the first three games. Both players then requested medical timeouts — Bartoli to have her left foot retaped, and Williams to have her upper left thigh taped. Following the 11-minute interruption, the 19th-ranked Bartoli held to close to 3-1. Williams hit a backhand winner to break for 5-1, and closed out the victory with a service winner.

With Wimbledon paying equal prize money to men and women for the first time this year, Williams won $1.41 million. Bartoli received half that amount.

In men’s draw, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will meet in another Grand Slam final. Four-time defending champion Federer reached his ninth consecutive major final on Saturday, beating Richard Gasquet 7-5, 6-3, 6-4. Nadal, who lost to Federer in last year’s final, set up a rematch when No 4 Novak Djokovic retired while trailing 3-6, 6-1, 4-1.