Serena Williams powered to her seventh Wimbledon crown as the world number one finally claimed a record-equalling 22nd major title with a 7-5, 6-3 victory over Angelique Kerber in Saturday’s final.
Williams had been stuck on 21 Grand Slams since winning last year’s Wimbledon, but the American star ended that frustrating barren spell to retain the title and draw level with Steffi Graf’s Open era record.
Serena was pushed hard by Kerber in a high-quality clash lasting 81 minutes on Centre Court, but the German fourth seed eventually crumbled under a barrage of 39 winners and 13 aces from the defending champion.
For a while, Serena Williams forgot how big of a champion she is. She forgot that she owned over 20 grand slam titles, 70 tournament titles, four Olympic gold medals, and an endless list of tennis records.
A heart-breaking loss in the US Open semi-finals to Roberta Vinci last September denied her a chance of completing a rare calendar-year Grand Slam and it took her nearly nine months to get her groove back.
“Definitely had some sleepless nights, if I’m just honest, with a lot of stuff, coming so close, feeling it, not being able to quite get there. My goal is to win always at least a slam a year. It was getting down to the pressure,” Serena admitted following her straight-sets win over Angelique Kerber to capture the Wimbledon title on Saturday.
“I put a lot of that pressure on myself. Obviously had some really tough losses, but if you look at the big picture, I was just thinking about getting to three finals, grand slam finals. In the past eight grand slams, I don’t know how many finals I’ve been in (seven). It’s pretty impressive.
“I had to start looking at positives, not focusing on that one loss per tournament which really isn’t bad, and for anyone else on this tour would be completely happy about it. Once I started focusing more on the positives, I realised that I’m pretty good. Then I started playing a little better.”
Serena said it was a “great relief” to finally capture the 22nd major title that saw her equal Steffi Graf’s Open Era record, but that it was also just exciting for her to win again.
Her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, feels that Serena finally started being “herself” again after the French Open final defeat to Garbine Muguruza last month, and that she just needed time to get over last year’s disappointment.
“If I’m totally honest, I’m not relieved to have the 22nd, I’m relieved to have found back Serena. Everything depends on that,” said Mouratoglou.
“There was clearly something missing in the last eight months, and the thing that was missing was just Serena. The tennis player was there but Serena as a person was not really herself…
“I think we did not realise how much time she needed to recover from the disappointment of the loss of the US Open, so it took time.
“With time you can heal and she needed to heal.”
Mouratoglou hailed Serena’s serving as well as her play at the net, both of which were huge factors behind her victory on Saturday.
How she reacted to facing that one break point, hitting back-to-back aces to avoid falling behind, was a clear indication that Serena was “back” according to the Frenchman.
He was particularly pleased with the volley that saw Serena seal her win.
“The good thing, I liked it, is that she won that match with the same volley that made her lose the match in Melbourne on match point. The forehand volley that was too deep, she won on this one, I think it was a good symbol,” said Mouratoglou.
Commenting on Kerber’s level, he added: “Kerber played really good. Only three unforced errors in the first set, it’s not much – five because two in the last game, but she’s human.
“It’s difficult to hold your own serve when there’s so much pressure on you because you feel you can’t break the opponent. So at a certain point you’re going to make one or two mistakes and Serena did the job.
“The match was really tough. She’s very difficult to manipulate on the tennis court because she reads the game so well and because she has a good answer to all the problems. That’s one thing.
“The second thing is she’s a bit predictable, otherwise we’d be in trouble. But even though, when Serena serves like that, it’s difficult for anyone.”
For the first time in his career, Andy Murray will face an opponent not named Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer in a grand slam final.
On his 11th appearance in a major final, Murray will on Sunday take on Canadian No6 seed Milos Raonic, looking to capture a second Wimbledon trophy and third slam title overall.
Murray is 2-8 in grand slam finals and is on a three-match losing streak in title matches at the majors.
He’s back in the Wimbledon final for the first time since he won it in 2013 and is thrilled to have another shot at a grand slam trophy.
“These tournaments are why I’m still playing and why I’m training hard and trying to win these events, that’s what really motivates me,” said the world No2, who is playing his third slam final of the year.
“Obviously to win them is great. They’re very hard competitions to win. I’ve been in the latter stages a number of times, won some, obviously lost some tough ones, as well. Yeah, I’d love to win it again obviously.”
Murray won his two grand slam titles under the tutelage of Ivan Lendl before parting ways with him in 2014.
They reunited ahead of this year’s grass court season and many will give a lot of credit to Lendl should Murray triumph over Raonic Sunday.
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence. I obviously had the best years of my career with him. But there is other people that go into it, as well. The rest of the team that’s working with me has helped get me into this position,” said Murray, who is on a five-match winning streak against Raonic.
“There’s no guarantees that I win on Sunday, obviously. But I obviously wanted to work with Ivan again to try to help me win these events. That’s the goal. But, yeah, there’s a lot of people have helped get me into this situation. My whole team’s responsible for that.”
American legend and six-time Wimbledon champion Billie Jean King believes Lendl – a winner of eight majors himself – helps Murray control his temper on court, something the Scot often struggles with.
Murray has a habit of yelling at his box during matches, but many feel Lendl is the one person that can discourage him from doing so.
“I love him, I’ve always liked him,” King said in a TV interview with the BBC.
“I think he’s so talented, he’s got soft hands, he can do anything, he’s great about women.
“The only thing that hurts him is he self-sabotages when he’s on the court, I want to just shake him.
“But Lendl is doing the right thing, Lendl doesn’t look at him at all, or if he looks to Lendl, Lendl is talking to somebody else. Lendl and Judy (Murray’s mother) are very stoic, they stay perfect, do not let him in one iota.
“When Craig Kardon and I coached Martina Navratilova, she wasn’t allowed to look at us. And if she did, it’s a bet, it’s money, it’s something. You have to make it, you have to stay on the court.
“And when Murray decides to stay on the court, he’s amazing. His second serve, obviously has gotten better, that’s where he can break down sometimes, only when his head has gone wacko.
“But when he’s playing well, nobody retrieves better, he’s got a great volley, nobody has got a better topspin lob off of both sides. He is brilliant, his mind… I’ve watched him since he was younger and I just think he’s brilliant. I think he could have accomplished a lot more than he has even.”