Serena Williams admitted she was relieved to finally equal Steffi Graf’s Open Era record of 22 grand slam singles titles on Sunday morning (AEST).
Williams saw off a strong challenge from German Angelique Kerber to win 7-5 6-3 in one hour and 21 minutes and claim the ladies singles title at Wimbledon for a seventh time.
The win was the American’s 22nd grand slam singles success – and her first since Wimbledon last year.
Fuelling her frustration of being stuck on 21 was grand slam final defeats to Kerber at this year’s Australian Open and Garbine Muguruza at the French Open last month.
“It’s been incredibly difficult not to think about it [equalling Graf’s record],” Williams said in an on-court interview afterwards.
“I had a couple of tries this year, lost to two great opponents, one actually being Angelique.
“But it makes the victory even sweeter – to know how hard I worked for it.
“Thank you guys for being out here to see number 22. It’s such a great feeling to be out here. This is awesome.”
The Wimbledon ladies singles final was the 10th in succession decided in straight sets.
Amelie Mauresmo’s come-from-behind triumph against Justine Henin in 2006 was the last ladies singles decider to go to three sets at the famed venue.
Only Aussie Margaret Court (24) has won more women’s grand slam titles than Williams, but just 11 were won in the Open Era, which started in 1968 when major tournaments allowed professionals to compete with amateurs.
Williams’ intent was shown from the very first game of this year’s final, with Kerber forced to save two break points just to hold serve.
Conditions were tricky for both players, though, with a swirling wind contributing to several Williams errors as Kerber grew into the match.
With games on serve, Williams needed one of her 13 aces to hold in a tight 11th game of the first set, in which she trailed 15-30, and Kerber was next to stutter with a tie-break in sight.
A pair of errors from the fourth seed gave Williams two set points at 5-6, and, after wasting the first, she produced an unreturnable stroke to take the lead.
Williams, who thumped 39 winners, gave Kerber a chance – albeit a brief one – to break in the seventh game of the second set.
But Kerber failed to take advantage, with another Williams ace proving too good.
And in the very next game Williams broke, before she sealed victory with an easy hold of serve – capped off with a simple volley down the middle of the court.
A gracious Kerber admitted she was second best on the day.
“Congrats to Serena – you really deserve the title,” Kerber said in her on-court interview.
“You’re a great champion, a great person and it’s always an honour for me to play you in the finals. We played a great match.
“It’s the best feeling to play here on the centre court … I really have the best two weeks here at Wimbledon. It’s an honour to play here.”
Kerber, who beat Venus Williams in her semi-final, simply had no answers for Serena’s serve.
The seven-time Wimbledon champion won 88 per cent of points on her first serve and took home 2 million British pounds ($AUD3.42million) for her triumph.
Williams can now usurp Graf – and move one grand slam title closer to Court – at her home tournament, the US Open, in September.