Wimbledon, England (CNN)Last year at Wimbledon after exiting to Alize Cornet, Serena Williams uttered: “I know I can do better.”
On Saturday at the All England Club came the exclamation point to her turnaround.
Williams defeated promising Spaniard Garbine Muguruza 6-4 6-4 in southwest London to complete the “Serena Slam” — winning four straight majors — for the second time in her career and is now well on the way to making more history at the season’s final grand slam.
“I can’t believe I’m standing here with another Serena Slam,” Williams, emulating her feat of 2002-2003, told the crowd.
Indeed if the American triumphs in September at the U.S. Open — and the odds are stacked in her favor given the 33-year-old is the three-time defending champion — she would become the first player since Steffi Graf in 1988 to achieve the calendar-year grand slam.
A victory would, too, draw the world No. 1 level with Graf on an Open Era leading 22 majors.
As if all that wasn’t enough, Williams surpassed Martina Navratilova by nearly four weeks as the oldest women’s grand slam winner in the Open Era.
The 21-year-old Muguruza, appearing in her first grand slam final, wept in her chair afterward but shouldn’t feel overly disappointed. It’s not very often that Williams loses grand slam finals: She improved to 21-4, last tasting defeat at the 2011 U.S. Open against Samantha Stosur.
Muguruza didn’t go away tamely, either, making matters interesting after trailing 5-1 in the second. She won plenty of new fans with her performance at tennis’ grandest arena.
“I want to (congratulate) Serena who is showing us she is world No. 1,” Muguruza said.
Despite the occasion, it was the Venezuelan-born Muguruza who began the stronger.
If she was nervous, she didn’t play like it.
Williams, by contrast, struck three of her eight double faults in the first game and was broken much to the delight of those gathered on Center Court. Muguruza’s powerful serve and ground strokes troubled Williams in the early stages.
But one felt it was only a matter of games before Williams awoke, even if Muguruza crushed Williams at last year’s French Open.
Holding two break points in the sixth game was a warning sign; in Muguruza’s ensuing service game a forehand wide tied proceedings at 4-4.
There was no way back for Muguruza, Spain’s first female grand slam finalist in 15 years.
With Williams now into a rhythm on serve and Muguruza serving second, the pressure took its toll. Muguruza’s first double fault at 4-5 set up a set point, which Williams duly converted. Williams tallied 12 aces to give her 42 in the quarterfinals, semifinals and final, or the business end of the event.
Williams raced to the 5-1 lead in the second set but for once nerves may have gotten to Williams. Muguruza saved a match point at 5-3 with a forehand winner after Williams escaped from 0-40 with a barrage of thumping serves — yet was broken to love in the next game.
Not that Williams knew right away that she had won a sixth Wimbledon crown following Muguruza’s wide forehand. She lost track of the score.
“Garbine played so well,” said Williams. “I didn’t even know it was over because she was fighting so hard.”
The two then hugged at the net before Williams bobbed in delight near her chair.