In 1988, Steffi Graf achieved something that will hardly ever be repeated, conquering all four Grand Slam titles and the singles gold medal at the Olympics for the so-called Golden Slam. The only player who had the opportunity to chase those five titles after the great German was Serena Williams, completing a career Grand Slam already in 2003 when she won the title at the Australian Open, with plenty of time for adding the Olympic gold medal to her collection.
Nonetheless, it seemed to be running away from her for years, missing the events in 2000 and 2004 and losing in the quarter-final to the eventual champion Elena Dementieva in Beijing 2008, winning the doubles gold medal with her sister Venus in 2000 and 2008.
At 30, Serena had a perfect chance to finally take the Olympic singles gold in London 2012, returning to Wimbledon a few weeks after conquering the fifth singles title at the All England Club and delivering incredible tennis in all six encounters to become the first player in tennis history with all four Majors and the Olympic gold in both singles and doubles!
Serena had to beat five top-20 rivals en route to a historic achievement, which was hardly an obstacle for her, dropping 17 games in 12 sets and never more than three to earn the title after one of the career-best weeks on the Tour.
On August 4, Williams toppled a former Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova 6-0, 6-1 in swift 62 minutes, notching her sixth win over the Russian in eight matches to embrace the Olympic glory. This was the perfect revenge for that 2004 Wimbledon final loss when Sharapova went all the way at 17, playing nowhere near that level eight years later and never standing a chance against the mighty opponent.
Serena had 24 winners and just seven unforced errors in what has been one of the best matches she ever played, dominating on both serve and return to leave Maria miles behind.
The American saved both break points, mounting the pressure on the Russian and stealing her serve five times from seven opportunities.
Sharapova won only 25 points overall, barely hitting any winner and allowing Serena to dictate the pace with her strong serve and groundstrokes that proved too tough to handle.
Keeping the points on her racquet, the American had the upper hand in the shortest and mid-range rallies, playing in full throttle and marching towards the title she wanted so badly. Serena kicked off the action with three aces, breaking at love in game two after a forehand down the line winner for an instant advantage.
Sharapova was 30-0 up in the third game before Williams grabbed four points in a row to seal the game with an ace and move 3-0 up. The Russian wasted a game point in the next one with a double fault, punished by Serena who fired another mighty forehand that propelled her 4-0 up, looking better and better and eager to maintain that pace.
Williams closed the fifth game with an ace and Maria was forced to serve to stay in the set after just 20 minutes, building a 40-0 lead in that sixth game before Serena climbed back, firing a backhand down the line winner for a set point and converting it with a forced volley error from Sharapova to wrap up the opener 6-0 in just 30 minutes!
Willams continued where she left in the first set, opening the second with four winners and rattling off the eighth straight game after a return winner in game two, moving closer to the finish line. Maria was utterly powerless on the return, falling 3-0 down when Serena landed three winners, finally getting her name on the scoreboard after 45 minutes in game four, holding with a service winner to avoid an even bigger disaster.
Sharapova created a break chance in game five, denied by a forehand drive volley winner from Serena who saved another break chance with a backhand winner and brought the game home after an unreturned serve for a 4-1. A smash winner earned a break at 15 for Williams in the next game and the gold medal was safely in her hands following four winners at 5-1, completing a fantastic performance with an ace down the T line and writing another chapter of tennis history.