WIMBLEDON -- With the gold medal finally - finally - hanging around her neck, Serena Williams allowed herself to admit the truth.
She really did want to win the Olympic tennis singles championship, more than she ever said. Despite protestations that gold at Wimbleon would just be "gravy" on a legendary career, when the moment came, it blew her away, in more ways than one.
"I always wanted to win a gold medal (in singles) secretly," she said Saturday shortly after dismissing Russian Maria Sharapova 6-0, 6-1 on the same grass where she won the Wimbledon title last month. "And I've always said it doesn't matter because I already have a gold medal (in doubles), and I really believe that. But deep, deep, deep, deep down I wanted it in singles as well."
This was the one major title that had been missing on her résumé. Williams owns 14 Grand Slam singles championships, the most of any active woman. She had won the Olympic gold medal in doubles with her sister Venus in 2000 and 2008, but not the gold in singles. She and Venus will play for a third doubles gold Sunday.
"It's such an amazing feeling. I got it," she said. "I can't compare. I have it, I have them all so it's great feeling."
The stage had been set for drama. The Olympic gold medal match. Williams vs. Sharapova.
The last time Sharapova defeated Williams in a singles final came at this court at the 2004 Wimbledon Championship final. Both players Saturday were chasing career golden slams, a sweep of the four major titles and an Olympic gold.
But instead of three acts from Shakespeare, Saturday's match was as brief as a Tweet. It was the most lopsided women's final in Olympic history. It's telling when the most drama of the day comes after the match.
After the blowout was over, Williams shouted in delight and then hopped like a school kid on a playground. That soon turned into a dance.
"I didn't know what to do. I was so happy. I didn't plan it; it just happened," Williams said. "It's a big moment. It's a big moment."
True joy isn't scripted. Neither was the scene that followed. During the medal ceremony, the American flag being raised while the national anthem played took flight, adding a bit more drama to the moment.
"Obviously it wasn't intentional," Williams said. This flag flap wasn't quite as embarrassing, politically at least, as the one that occurred earlier in these Games when the South Korean flag was mistakenly displayed on the jumbotron alongside the faces of North Korean players at a women's soccer game.
Nor was it leftover gust of Cold War frigidity. The International Olympic Committee member presenting the medal just happened to be be Russian. (Former tennis player Shamil Tarpischev.)
"It was just the wind. It was so windy," Williams said. "Hey, it's life."
In other words, blame Mother Nature. "All these gusts of wind, you then see the flag flying and then oohhh," Williams said, describing the scene in which the flag flew to the ground. "It was probably flying to come hug me because the flag was so happy," she joked. "It didn't quite make it but almost. It was fluttering towards me trying to wrap its fabric around me."
Everything went Williams' way this day. She even dominated the wind, Sharapova said. "She's playing incredibly confident tennis," said Sharapova, who has lost to Williams the last eight times they've met, dating to that 2004 Wimbledon match.
"After winning Wimbledon (last month), you've seen her level progress so much here over this tournament. With every match she's played, she's getting better, hitting harder. So much power on the ball even against the wind today. Her shots were very powerful. She's done an incredible job of keeping that up."
In the six matches of her gold medal run, Williams lost 17 games. Against Sharapova, Williams finished with 10 aces, 24 winners and seven unforced errors.
"I was really focused today. I really wanted to go out and do well when you're playing a great tennis player like Maria, the only other player that's playing that has a career Grand Slam, you gotta come ready to play," Williams said. "I don't know what was going on today. I don't know if it was domination or if it was just me being really focused. I think the grass suits me. It just all came together."