Serena Williams has equalled Steffi Graf’s Open era record of 22 majors by beating Angelique Kerber 7-5 6-3 in a high quality Wimbledon final. Kerber had beaten Williams in the Australian Open final this year, inadvertently protecting her idol and fellow German’s record. But she wasn’t to be denied this time.
Serena, who also lost the French Open final, hit 13 aces and 39 winners to win the Wimbledon title for the seventh time. She is now just two grand slams away from tying Margaret Court’s all-time record.
The matchup was fascinating on paper because of the contrasting game styles. In Serena, you had one of tennis’s greatest ever servers and power hitters pitted against Kerber, a great retriever. Something had to give.
Kerber escaped a tough opening service game saving three break points but then settled. Serena played a superb half volley and drop volley in response to Kerber’s trademark crosscourt forehand passing shot, something the American didn’t have an answer to in Melbourne.
The set looked destined for a tiebreak but, at 5-6 15-15, Kerber hit two rash unforced errors in a row. It was uncharacteristic of the German and in complete contrast to the way she had played the rest of the set.
At 1-2 in the second set, the fourth seeded underdog produced the shot of the match, crushing a backhand winner from well outside the doubles alley. It brought the crowd to their feet.
At 3-3, Kerber finally had an opening. It was her first and only break point of the match but Serena slammed the door shut with an ace. Kerber might have dropped her shoulders and was broken in the next game before Serena served out the one hour 21 minute match emphatically, with a love game. After match point, she fell backward onto the grass before warmly embracing her opponent at the net and then flashed two fingers from each hand, signalling ‘22’.
Serena on finally getting to 22 after failing to reach the landmark at the last three majors: “I have definitely had some sleepless nights with a lot of stuff, coming so close and feeling it and not being able to get there. This tournament I came in with a different mindset. In Melbourne I thought I played well but Angelique played well, and better. So I knew going into this one I needed to be calm and confident and play the tennis I’ve been playing for over a decade.”
Coach Patrick Mouratoglou thought the real Serena was back after an eight month absence. “Today when she’s in trouble at 15-30, boom, boom, this is Serena. When she needs to lift her level to close it, this is Serena. I didn’t see that for eight months.
Kerber didn’t have too many regrets in her defeat. “Of course it feels disappointing, that’s for sure. But also I know I played a good final. I lost against a really strong Serena today. This makes it a little better, that I know she won the match, not that I lost the match, because she played very well.”
The day got even better for the world no.1. Elder sister Venus was sitting in Serena’ player box, along with Beyonce and Jay Z, and later in the day they combined to win the ladies doubles title, 6-3 6-4 over Timea Babos and Yaroslava Shvedova.