Venus Williams Reclaims Wimbledon Crown

Veteran tennis star Venus Williams captures an unexpected Wimbledon's women's singles championship. John Wertheim of Sports Illustrated tells Jennifer Ludden about the match and about the men's final tomorrow.

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JENNIFER LUDDEN, host:

While protesters and concertgoers were gathered in London's Hyde Park, sports fan across town got a treat on Wimbledon's center court. The lowest seed in the history of the tournament won the women's single's title. Venus Williams, placed at number 14 on the ladder, beat fellow American and top-seed Lindsay Davenport, 4-6, 7-6, 9-7. It was the longest women's final in Wimbledon's history and a huge career comeback for Williams. She hadn't won a Grand Slam championship in nearly four years. Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated joins us now.

Hi, Jon.

Mr. JON WERTHEIM (Sports Illustrated): Hi, there.

LUDDEN: Early on, it looked like Venus Williams' championship drought was just going to continue. How did she turn it around?

Mr. WERTHEIM: Well, this has sort of been the hallmark throughout her career which she's just one of these rare athletes where--you know, when all the cliches when their backs are against the wall, when she's down match point, she firmly believes she's going to summon her best tennis and win the match and that's what she did. You know, it was an exceptional comeback, but it's really something we've seen from both Venus and her sister many times before.

LUDDEN: But up into the second set even, it looked like she was going to lose.

Mr. WERTHEIM: Yeah, but as you mentioned, just the fact that she was here, I mean, I think a lot of people are going to see the headlines and see Williams wins another Slam say ho-hum, but really for her to be at that point--I mean, it was only five weeks ago she lost in the French Open to a 15-year-old who hadn't, you know, been in the top 50. For her to sort of get back to this level of tennis so quickly is just remarkable.

LUDDEN: Now her 14-seed position does reflect the poor performance that she's had the past few years. Why has she been so off her game for so long until today?

Mr. WERTHEIM: Well, the conventional wisdom is that there were these technical flaws that she used to be able to overcome with her power and other players caught on, but I think something that doesn't get spoken about--and Venus to her credit doesn't really address this--she had a sister that was murdered almost two years ago and if you sort of look at the timing of this drought and you look at sort of what's happened to her game, I mean, I think that exacted a huge price quite understandably and I think the people that have picked on these sort of technical flaws have missed the bigger picture.

LUDDEN: Now last year, Lindsay Davenport lost in the Wimbledon semifinals and she talked then about retiring. Do you think she'll be speaking again of that after today's loss?

Mr. WERTHEIM: Well, that's an excellent question. I mean, she sort of said as long as she's challenging for Grand Slam title, she'll still have motivation and obviously having a match point in a Wimbledon final is certainly challenging. At the same time, when you talk about Venus' drought, Lindsay Davenport hasn't won a major title now in more than five years, and to get so, sort of, tantalizingly close--and this is really the third time in the past year that she's really had a major on her racket and hasn't been able to deliver. I think this just has to take a huge price and it'll be interesting to see how she recovers and how she can sort of summon the energy to play through the year and see if she can put this behind her at the US Open.

LUDDEN: Well, back to today's tournament, there was also action on the men's court. What happened?

Mr. WERTHEIM: Well, Andy Roddick had the misfortune of having his semifinal match rained out yesterday and he had to come back which is never easy mentally and he actually lost the first set but then overpowered his opponent Thomas Johansson, a good player from Sweden, but these are the top two seeds now, Roger Federer and Roddick, that are going to be meeting in the finals as a repeat of last year. So order sort of prevailed.

LUDDEN: Well, last year, Roddick lost that match. Do you think he has a better shot this year?

Mr. WERTHEIM: I do think he has a--I mean, he played well and lost which is demoralizing. I mean, Roger Federer is just this sort of singular talent. He's going for his third straight Wimbledon. I think Roddick, you know, if everything breaks right and he's just coming with his power, I think he's got a decent shot this year. His physical fitness has been good and he seems like Venus Williams to have had this sudden surge in confidence, but that said, I think Federer is pretty much the overwhelming favorite. Again, this will be his third straight Wimbledon if he wins. That's something only two other players have done.

LUDDEN: Well, maybe another upset.

Mr. WERTHEIM: Exactly.

LUDDEN: Jon Wertheim writes about tennis for Sports Illustrated.

Thanks so much.

Mr. WERTHEIM: Thanks a lot.

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