Venus shines bright
American Venus Williams put a golden finish on a dream season on Wednesday by sweeping past 10th-seeded Elena Dementieva of Russia to win the Olympic gold medal in women's tennis.
Second-seeded Williams defeated the 18-year-old Russian 6-2, 6-4 to extend her winning streak to 32 successive match victories.
With her mother Oracene and sisters Serena and Lyndrea looking on in the stands, Williams was handed a large American flag and waved it to the cheering crowd at the Olympic Park Tennis Centre.
Winning Olympic gold gave Williams her sixth successive tournament victory -- a stretch that includes grand slam triumphs at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.
"I've worked so hard for this," said Williams, who beat Arantxa Sanchez Vicario of Spain and team mate Monica Seles on her way to the final. "It's unbelievable."
Williams, who is also chasing gold in women's doubles with Serena, has avoided the Olympic hoopla during her Sydney stay, but the 20-year-old American lit up with joy at her golden victory and wiped a tear from her eye during the playing of the anthem.
"I felt really emotional. It was very exciting. I remember watching the Olympics at home as a kid. It was one of the dreams of my Dad to win an Olympic medal," said Williams, who is coached by her father Richard.
The bronze medal went to Seles, who defeated 17-year-old Australian Jelena Dokic 6-1 6-4 on Tuesday.
The men's gold will be determined on Thursday when fifth-seeded Yevgeny Kafelnikov of Russia plays Germany's Tommy Haas in the final.
Arnaud Di Pasquale of France won the men's bronze medal on Wednesday, defeating Roger Federer of Switzerland 7-6 (7-5) , 6-7 (7-9), 6-3.
Williams proved too powerful for the Russian teenager, who appeared nervous in the Olympic gold medal match, her first appearance in a professional final.
At one point in the first set, Dementieva ducked underneath the bounce of a 165 kph (103 mph) second serve ace aimed right at her to avoid being hit.
"I wasn't ready for the second serve," she said sheepishly. "It was like a first (serve)."
The American pounded away at Dementieva's weaker backhand side, drawing errors or opening up the forehand side of the court to drive home winners.
Dementieva was woeful from the service line, broken in six service games out of the nine she served. Williams applied constant pressure. The Russian had only two service games in which she did not face break point.
Williams dropped only four points in four service games in the first set, but lost her edge in the second set as Dementieva broke her three times to keep it close.
The American served for the gold at 5-2, but made three successive backhand errors to drop serve.
Williams closed out the match on her next service game, finishing off the 55-minute contest on her third gold medal point when the Russian's crosscourt backhand sailed wide.
"It's difficult to play her, she's very strong," said Dementieva, an up-and-coming star who also reached this month's U.S. Open semi-finals in just her second season on tour. "Getting to the final is a great result.
"But I'm very upset that I didn't play well. But I believe that I can do it. Maybe next time."
Dementieva had defeated Williams in their only previous meeting, in a dead-rubber at last year's Fed Cup matches in California.
"She's playing much better this year," said Dementieva. "She goes to the net and does everything on court."
Williams said the Olympics was something special.
"As far as Wimbledon and the grand slam championships you have so many opportunities to win them," she said. "This is every four years."
The all-conquering Williams could think of only one thing better.
"An even better feeling would be getting the gold in doubles with Serena," she said. "That's family."
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