Originally created 07/03/05

Venus Williams earns title with remarkable comeback



WIMBLEDON, England - Venus Williams mounted one last comeback, capping her career revival by winning another Wimbledon title.

Williams overcame an early deficit and a championship point Saturday to beat top-ranked Lindsay Davenport 4-6, 7-6 (4), 9-7 for her fifth major title and her first in nearly four years.

At 2 hours, 45 minutes, the women's final was the longest on record at Wimbledon. Williams became the first woman since 1935 to win the title after facing a match point in the final.

"I just spent so much time behind," Williams said. "The only time I think I was in front was when I won the match."

When Davenport hit a forehand into the net on the last point, Williams raised both fists and grinned. After the players hugged, Williams hopped, sank to her knees and patted the grass. Then she rose and hopped some more, laughing all the while.

"I could have jumped for a lot longer," Williams said with a laugh two hours after her victory. "I was just so excited. I can't help myself when I get excited. I show it all."

In the postmatch ceremony, Williams was presented with the championship trophy that coincidentally bears her first name - the Venus Rosewater Dish. She also won Wimbledon in 2000 and 2001, and was runner-up to sister Serena in 2002 and 2003.

The men's final today will be a rematch of last year, when Roger Federer beat Andy Roddick to win his second title in a row. Roddick completed a two-day semifinal suspended overnight because of rain, defeating Thomas Johansson 6-7 (6), 6-2, 7-6 (10), 7-6 (5) on Saturday.

The Williams-Davenport match climaxed with the longest third set in a Wimbledon women's final since Louise Brough beat Margaret Osborne duPont 10-8, 1-6, 10-8 in 1949, and it was full of suspense.

Davenport's back tightened and bothered her for several games midway through the set, and she required treatment from a trainer when ahead 4-3. She reached championship point leading 5-4 and receiving serve, but Williams kept the match alive with a backhand winner, then hit another to win the game for 5-all.

Both players held to 7-all. One rally lasted 25 strokes, by far the longest of the match, with both players running side to side and slugging shots into the corners.

Williams earned three break points in the next game and converted the third, hitting a forehand winner to close a 14-shot rally.

She won the first three points of the next game to reach championship point. After belting a backhand winner for 40-love, she pumped both fists and gritted her teeth, then finished the job two points later.

"Every time the chips were down for Venus, she played unbelievable," said Davenport, who said the sore back wasn't a factor in her defeat.

"I thought I played really well and I thought I had a lot of chances, and I feel like she never let me take advantage of those chances."

With Williams' victory, six women have won the past six major titles. She snapped a streak of losses in her past five Grand Slam finals, all against her sister.

At No. 14, she became the lowest-seeded women's champion, surpassing 2004 champion Maria Sharapova, who was seeded 13th. Williams beat Sharapova in the semifinals.

Davenport, who was mulling retirement at this time last year, has staged a career comeback of her own, and was seeking her first major title since 2000. Instead she's a two-time Grand Slam runner-up this year - she lost the Australian Open final in January to Serena Williams.

Controversy flared briefly in the second set. Williams was serving at 4-4, 15-0 when her serve was ruled an ace.

However, TV replays showed the ball clearly out.

The mild-mannered Davenport pleaded in vain for chair umpire Gerry Armstrong to overrule the call.

"If I did my job that poorly, I wouldn't be able to be out here," she told Armstrong. "I don't understand why you're sitting here. It's not even close. You don't have the guts to overrule?"

Asked later about the dispute, Davenport smiled and said, "Gosh, I wish I could remember more of the second set."