The fascination of this duel was that both players went at it so magnificently from the baseline, with Davenports ground game fundamentally sounder and more impressive than that of Williams. Davenports strokes were then the purest in the womens game, particularly her effortless two-hander. Her ball striking was virtually impeccable, and her serve was superior for much of the match. And yet, it was not enough for the Californian to overcome an unbending Venus on this occasion because Williams set tremendously high standards herself.
This was their 27th career head to head confrontation, and Davenport held a narrow 14-12 lead in the series. She seemed likely to make it five victories in a row against her formidable rival when she won the first set comfortably enough. She kept pounding away at the Williams forehand to induce mistakes, and served successfully to that wing in both the deuce and ad courts. Davenport had won three major singles titles across her storied career, taking the U.S. Open in 1998, Wimbledon in 1999 and the Australian Open in 2000.
But she had not sealed a major title since. Now Davenport moved within striking distance of a lofty goal. Davenport served for the match at 6-5 in the second set and did not miss a first serve in that critical twelfth game. But Williams responded admirably, lacing three consecutive winners before Davenport erred off the backhand. Williams tenaciously broke back at love for 6-6. Then Davenport rallied gamely from 1-5 in the tie-break and was serving at 4-5, only to make another uncharacteristic error off the backhand. Williams took the next point to make it one set all.
Davenport remained intense, unrelenting and purposeful. She led 4-2, 40-15 in the third set, but double faulted. Williams followed with a fortunate forehand volley that fell almost accidentally on the sideline. A bold Venus broke back in that seventh game. They went to 4-4 before Davenport held on for 5-4. In the tenth game, Williams double faulted wildly to give Davenport a match point. Davenport made a fine return of serve but her next shot was too cautious, and Williams pounced, blasting a gutsy backhand down the line for a clean winner. She held on for 5-5, but Davenport created more chances for herself. With Williams serving at 5-6 and again at 6-7, Davenport advanced to 15-30, but Williams would not yield. In the end, Williams won her third of five Wimbledon singles championships in two hours and 45 minutes, succeeding honorably in the longest ever womens final at Wimbledon, becoming the first woman since Helen Wills beat Helen Jacobs in 1935 to save a match point in a title round match at the All England Club.
The loss was heartbreaking for Davenport, but Williams proved once more why she belongs among the best of all grass court players ever among the women. Her play in the clutch was the primary reason why she beat a great player who was enjoying one of her finest days. Venus Williams defined herself as a champion more with this win than any other in her illustrious career.