There was a touch of symbolism in the way Serena Williams avenged her Australian Open final defeat to Angelique Kerber by overcoming the German 7-5, 6-3 to win a seventh Wimbledon title and equal Steffi Graf’s Open Era record of 22 grand slams.
Serena wrapped up her 81-minute victory with a forehand volley winner at the net, the same shot she missed to lose that Melbourne final to Kerber six months ago.
It was Serena’s 16th successful point at the net on Saturday, out of 22 played up front.
In front of a star-studded audience that included superstars Beyonce and Jay-Z, who were sitting with Serena’s family in her box, legends like Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova and Margaret Court in the Royal Box, alongside American comedian Ellen Degeneres, and Orange is the New Black’s Uzo Aduba elsewhere in the stands, the top seed defended her Wimbledon crown, making history in the process.
Serena had been chasing Graf’s record for the past three majors, losing in the US Open semi-finals last year and the Australian and French Open finals this season.
“I had a couple of tries this year… it makes the victory even sweeter to know how hard I worked for it,” said a smiling Serena on court.
It was the first time in a decade that the same two women faced off in a grand slam final in the same season. It meant that Serena and Kerber knew what to expect from one another from the get-go and the pair provided such a high-quality clash the score line will never do justice.
Bidding to become the first German to win a Wimbledon title since Steffi Graf in 1996, Kerber saved three break points to hold for 1-1 early on.
Serena was in peak-serving mode but Kerber finally managed to put some pressure on the American for the first time in game seven. But Serena weathered the storm.
The 34-year-old Serena took a tumble in game nine but still managed to hold for 5-4.
Serving to stay in the set for a second time, at 5-6, Kerber encountered some serious heavy-hitting from Serena to drop the first point.
Serena got her hands on two break/set points on a long ball from Kerber. The German saved the first with a forehand up at the net but could not do much on the second as Serena struck a huge backhand that sent Kerber well off the court. A bellowing ‘come on’ followed as the defending champion took a one-set lead.
The world No1 hit 24 winners in that opening set, won 88 per cent of the points on her first serve, faced zero break points and was an impressive 10/12 at the net.
By the fourth game of the second set, both players had reached new heights in terms of ball-striking and intensity.
Kerber finally got her first break point on the Serena serve