With a career Grand Slam, five Wimbledon titles and two Olympic doubles gold medals, Serena Williams has accomplished pretty much everything a tennis player possibly can.
Williams has struggled through injuries over the past couple years, and many questioned whether she could still play at a high level, but she has silenced the critics by playing perhaps the best tennis of her career over the past month. Williams easily won her fifth Wimbledon championship a few weeks ago, and the Olympic gold now serves as an encore performance.
Most tennis players begin to decline at the age of 30, but like fine wine, Williams appears to be getting better with each passing day. She has turned in plenty of dominant outings over the course of her illustrious career, but I'm not sure any female tennis player has ever made winning look easier than Serena has at the Olympics.
Both Williams and Sharapova were chasing the Golden Slam, which includes winning all four Grand Slam events as well as an Olympic gold medal in singles. Serena and her sister, Venus, took doubles gold in both 2008 and 2000, but this individual victory cements her as one of the all-time great women's tennis players if she wasn't already.
There is no question that Sharapova had an impressive Olympic tournament with wins over the likes of Sabine Lisicki, Kim Clijsters and Maria Kirilenko, but Serena is playing at an entirely different level. Not only did Williams not drop a set during the entire tournament, but nobody won more than three games against her in a single set.
As if this victory wasn't enough, Serena will have a shot at double gold as well. She and Venus are set to face the Russian pair of Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova in the semifinals of the women's doubles tournament, with the winners challenging the Czech Republic's tandem of Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka in the gold-medal match.
When you consider the level at which Serena is competing right now, it makes winning another gold in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 seem like a possibility. Players eventually decline as they age, and there are sure to be some trying times for Williams over the next four years, though, so nabbing the gold in London was a must for her.
Sharapova is only 25 and will be around Serena's age during the 2016 Olympics, so she may have another shot. Serena looked like the more desperate player in the match and the tournament as a whole, but the experience Sharapova gained should certainly help her down the line.
There was never really any doubt that Serena would win gold—she decimated each and every one of her opponents—so the true question now is whether or not she can maintain this momentum. The U.S. Open is approaching quickly and is a tournament that she has won three times already, so a fourth title could be on the horizon.
Serena is sixth on the all-time list with 14 women's singles Grand Slam titles. While she won't catch Margaret Court, who won 24, she can still move up that list. Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova are next with 18, and Helen Wills Moody has 19.
Provided Williams can keep up this same level of play for another year or two, she may end up as the third-winningest women's tennis player ever behind Court and Steffi Graf. All of that is merely speculation, but what we do know for sure is that Williams is the best women's player in the world right now, and she's an Olympic gold medalist.
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