LONDON // "Hey, Billie, I got you!" That was the mischievous message from the current queen of women's tennis to a legend of years gone by after a disappointingly one-sided Wimbledon final had gone, as expected, emphatically the way of Serena Williams. The breeze of a victory - 6-3, 6-2 in only 67 minutes - by the world No 1 over a gallant but hopelessly inadequate Vera Zvonareva raised Wiliams's haul of grand slam titles to 13. That put her one ahead of fellow American Billie Jean King, who had a golden era in the 1960s and 70s.
King, a mentor of Williams and her big sister Venus during the California siblings' formative years, was on Centre Court to witness the landmark victory. She applauded from her seat as Williams prepared to receive the coveted silver plate for the fourth time. And Williams, who claimed her fourth title here, is by no means finished. Serving as powerfully as she has ever done since launching her sister act with Venus a decade ago, Williams, by no means a veteran at 28, has the capacity to exceed Margaret Court's record of 24 majors - if she remains totally committed to the game that has brought her fame and fortune.
That dedication has not been complete over the years as she and her sister have been distracted by a variety of outside pursuits - from acting to fashion designing. Williams has proved over the past fortnight, though, that she is head and shoulders above the rest at what she does best. Only Maria Sharapova, the former world No 1 who stunned Williams in the 2004 final, looked anything like a threat in their captivating quarter-final. With a more favourable draw, that match could easily have been the final.
Sharapova certainly put up a better show than a disconsolate Zvonareva could manage on the biggest day of her life. The Centre Court crowd, fearing they would be short-changed, clapped and cheered every time Zvonareva won a game but those plaudits were sadly infrequent. Zvonareva, who has shown great courage and resilience in overcoming a career-threatening ankle injury, had nowhere to hide, despite trying hard to conceal her face, and possibly her tears, under a towel at each second-set changeover.
Like many before her who have made it through to the final for the first time, she said she had dreamed about the moment when she was at school. Her dream became a nightmare, though, as she was bludgeoned into submission by her Williams's tremendous service - a delivery that produced a success rate of 94 per cent when it found the target. "I did not show my best today which is disappointing because you don't reach the Wimbledon final every day," Zvonareva said.
"But overall, Serena played very well. She didn't give me chances to get into the match. She's beatable, but it's very difficult to beat her." Williams was flattered to be informed after her victory that Martina Navratilova, who won 18 grand slam singles titles during her all-conquering career, had described her serve as the best the women's game has ever seen. "If they say I'm the greatest then I feel pretty good about that," Williams said. "I am living in a time where the game is faster than it was several years ago. In a couple of years time it will be someone else." firstname.lastname@example.org