Venus Williams' dream run at Wimbledon didn't yield the fairy-tale ending that many hoped to witness on Saturday.
Up against Garbine Muguruza, an opponent 14 years her junior, in the final on Centre Court, Williams was unable to match the youngster's intensity. The 7-5, 6-0 final result at the All England Club highlighted the overwhelming power that Muguruza brought to the game at just 23 years of age.
The opening set was a competitive affair filled with grueling rallies and hard-fought points. The 37-year-old Williams commanded much of the set and even held two set points before Muguruza mounted a comeback to close out the opener 7-5. She maintained her dominance throughout the second set for an emphatic 6-0 bagel finish to the first women's Wimbledon final under a closed roof.
Despite being outclassed in the Wimbledon final, Williams smiled as she accepted her runner-up trophy during the ceremony. She congratulated her opponent for her "beautiful victory" and promised to return to Wimbledon in the future: "Congratulations Garbine, amazing. I know how hard you work. Well done today, beautiful."
Muguruza, now a two-time Grand Slam champion (she won the 2016 French Open), beamed with youth and energy as she posed with her trophy for the cameras, and she even attempted to balance it on her head, much to the despair of Wimbledon officials. She was congratulated by fellow Spaniards Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario and Manuel Santana -- legends in their own right -- and her victory speech paid tribute to Venus.
"She's such an incredible player," Muguruza said of Williams. "I grew up watching her play so it's incredible to play the final [against her] here. Of course I'm nervous. I've always dreamed to be here. The first set was very tough. We both had a lot of chances. Serena told me two years ago that one day I was going to win. So here I am."
While Muguruza's path to the final included wins over world No. 1 Angelique Kerber and Svetlana Kuznetsova, it was Venus' emotional fortnight that captured fans' imagination. The former world No. 1 defeated No. 6 seed Johanna Konta in the semifinals and a host of other competitors during her stay at Wimbledon, but it was a tragic car accident that ultimately influenced the story.
In June, Williams was involved in a fatal car accident in Florida. The seven-time grand slam champion's SUV was T-boned at an intersection, which killed an elderly passenger in another vehicle. Williams was not found at fault, despite early reports that suggested otherwise. Though innocent in the tragic incident, Williams struggled through tears when asked to recall the accident during a second-round press conference and was clearly suffering with the weight of its undeniable reality. Despite the difficult period in her life, Williams went on to defeat another four opponents without dropping a single set.
The pain and quiet suffering evident during the press conference became another hurdle for Williams to overcome in a life full of obstacles. Venus and her sister Serena grew up in Compton, Calif., where they managed to shine as tennis talents under the careful tutelage of their father. They eventually rose to become sensations in a sport dominated by white players. Venus went on to win seven Grand Slam titles, while her sister became arguably the most celebrated player of all time with a record 23 major titles. Between the two of them, they also claimed 14 Grand Slam doubles titles.
In 2011, Venus was diagnosed with Sjogren's syndrome, an autoimmune disease in which the moisture-producing glands of the body are affected. The disease had a significant effect on her tennis game and looked as though it would cause her retirement. Six years later, the American was back in a Wimbledon final -- yet another example of Williams' impenetrable determination to succeed.
While celebrating her first Grand Slam title in nine years would have been an impressive accomplishment, it wasn't meant to be. And yet, despite the definitive loss to a player from an entirely different generation of tennis professionals, it is unlikely that we have seen the end of one of the sport's most celebrated and beloved competitors.
Age may have hindered Venus' physicality, but it certainly hasn't hampered her spirit or weakened her resolve. At 37 years young, she still might have another Wimbledon run in her.