Angelique Kerber was so steady, so patient, so accurate throughout the Wimbledon final. She never really gave Serena Williams much of a chance.
Kerber won her first championship at the All England Club and third major overall by playing cleanly as can be and picking her spots for big shots, beating Williams 6-3, 6-3.
“I knew that I had to play my best tennis against a champion like Serena,” said Kerber, the first German woman to win Wimbledon since Steffi Graff in 1996.
She prevented Williams from claiming an eighth title at Wimbledon and 24th from all grand slam tournaments, which would have equalled Margaret Court’s record.
Williams gave birth only 10 and a half months ago, then was treated for blood clots. She wore special compression leggings as a precaution during Wimbledon, just the fourth tournament of her comeback.
After all the time away, Williams spoke about being impressed with herself for just reaching the final. She also wanted to win, of course.
“To all the mums out there, I was playing for you today — and I tried,” said the 36-year-old American, her voice shaking during the trophy ceremony.
“Angelique played really well,” Williams said. “She played out of her mind.”
Kerber made only five unforced errors the entire match, 19 fewer than Williams. Perhaps more impressive was this: She broke Williams in four of nine service games.
The 30-year-old German lost to Williams in the 2016 Wimbledon final. She beat Williams in the Australian Open final that year, then won that year’s U.S. Open to briefly replace her at number one in the rankings.
Kerber addressed Williams during the on-court interviews, saying: “You’re such an inspiration for everybody, for all of us. I’m sure you will have your next grand slam title soon. I’m really, really sure.”
The 30-year-old German separated herself from dual major winners Petra Kvitova, Victoria Azarenka, Garbine Muguruza and Svetlana Kuznetsova with a third career major title victory.
Kerber joined the living legend Williams, the American’s sister Venus (7) and Russian superstar Maria Sharapova (5) as just the fourth active player with at least three slams to their credit.
Kerber eyes Grand Slam
Kerber will arrive at next year’s French Open amid huge hype as she attempts to follow in the footsteps of Williams, Graf, Sharapova and fellow tennis icons Margaret Court, Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert as only the seventh woman in 50 years of professional tennis to achieve a career Grand Slam.
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 14, 2018
The only others to achieve the feat since grand slam tournaments began more than a century ago are Americans Billie-Jean King, Maureen Connolly, Doris Hart and Shirley Fry Irvin.
Despite her status as a former world number one — as well as boasting some formidable results on clay and being a quarter-finalist for the second time at Roland Garros last month — Kerber is embarrassed to entertain the prospect of joining such exalted company with French Open glory.
“To win my third grand slam it’s amazing, especially here. Wimbledon was always the grand slam I was dreaming for it,” the soon-to-be world number four said.
“To start with Australia, with New York, I learned a lot from the experience and everything.
“Also to playing the final the second time here (after losing to Williams in 2016). To winning three different grand slams, I think it’s just the best thing.
“About clay, I think we have to see in the future. I think that’s a longer way to go for it.”
The final had started more than two hours late, because they had to wait for the end of Novak Djokovic’s five-set victory over Rafael Nadal in a men’s semi-final that was suspended the night before.
Williams’ play was tight right from the outset.
After taking the opening two points, she made four miscues in a row to get broken. That was part of a run in which she dropped eight of nine points. The American was mostly her own undoing, too. She was responsible for the final’s initial six unforced errors. By the time the first set was over, the disparity was 14-3.
That’s not going to work against an opponent of Kerber’s quality.
Trying to sneak a ball past Kerber is something akin to trying to put one past a brick wall. There are no holes.
The left-hander scurried along the baseline, using a combination of quickness and anticipation to track down what often appeared to be winners for Williams but were not enough to end a point. Kerber would bend real low, even putting a knee right on the grass to get a ball back.
And when she swung her racket, the measure was almost always true.
That’s not to say Kerber is only about defending. She has added a more aggressive element to her game in recent years. That was on display when she delivered a pair of down-the-line forehand passing winners to collect the last break she’d need, for a 4-2 edge in the second set.
Soon enough, she was down on the grass, celebrating the moment and caking dirt on her white dress.
“It was such an amazing tournament for me. I was really happy to get this far,” Williams said. “It’s obviously disappointing, but I can’t be disappointed. I have so much to look forward to. I’m literally just getting started.”