WIMBLEDON, July 14, 2018 (by Michael Dickens)
At No. 181, Serena Williams became the lowest ranked player in history to reach a Wimbledon women’s final. However, it wasn’t a guarantee for success when the seven-time Wimbledon singles champion faced No. 11 seed Angelique Kerber, the highest remaining seed in the 128-player draw, in what will be remembered as a most topsy-turvy of fortnights in the tournament’s 150-year history.
Instead of winning her eighth Wimbledon singles crown and 24th Grand Slam singles title overall – which would have tied the record set by the Australian great Margaret Court – Williams played flat while Kerber rose to the occasion and gave a memorable performance in winning 6-3, 6-3 on Centre Court at the All England Club Saturday afternoon.
Kerber became just the second player (after Venus Williams) to beat Serena Williams in multiple Grand Slam finals after she beat her to win the 2016 Australian Open title. She also became the first German woman to win the Wimbledon singles title since Steffi Graf won in 1996.
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“I played my best tennis today,” Kerber said during the trophy presentation, after winning her first Wimbledon crown and third Grand Slam title overall. “It’s always an honor to share a court with Serena. The last two weeks have been amazing.”
Kerber will climb to No. 4 when the WTA rankings are updated on Monday while Williams moves all the way up to 28th.
In graciously accepting her runner-up award, Williams, fighting back tears, said, “I can’t be disappointed. I have so much to look forward to. I’m literally just getting started.”
It’s been less than a year since Williams gave birth to her daughter, Olympia, and began the journey toward returning to excellence. After winning just two of her first four matches after returning to the tour in March while struggling to regain her movement and rhythm, then taking a two-month break before resurfacing at the French Open, Williams is 9-1. A pectoral injury forced her to withdraw after winning three rounds at Roland Garros. Then, after recovering, she ran the table and won six straight rounds at the All England Club before bowing in the final.
“I’m just me, and that’s all I can be,” Williams said. “To all the moms out there, I was playing for you today, and I tried. But Angelique played really well; she played out of her mind.”
Indeed, Kerber won 70 percent of her first serves (23 of 33) and broke Williams four times in seven tries. Although she hit just 11 winners to Serena’s 23, she only made five unforced errors while Williams committed 24. Kerber outpointed Williams 56-45.
Williams and Kerber endured a two-hour delay to accommodate the completion of the second men’s semifinal between No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal and No. 12 seed Novak Djokovic, won by Djokovic in five sets, before taking Centre Court to begin their final. Then, they battled like warriors in pursuit of the Venus Rosewater Dish, the prize given to the Wimbledon ladies’ champion.
Kerber won the first set in 31 minutes on the strength of breaking Williams’ serve three times. Down 2-3, the German won four straight games to close out the opener. Then, she won a critical break-point opportunity in the sixth game of the second set with a forehand winner to go ahead 4-2. Kerber closed out the 65-minute title match when Williams hit an errant backhand. Perhaps, the biggest surprise was how swiftly and solidly Kerber won.
After securing match point, Kerber collapsed to the ground the moment she realized victory belonged to her. It didn’t matter that she got dirt stains all over her back of her kit in celebrating the moment.
A victory tour around Centre Court soon followed. Then, in a separate off-court interview with North American broadcaster ESPN, Kerber called winning Wimbledon “one of my best moments of my career,” and “my biggest goal of the year.”
She added, “It’s like a dream come true. It’s special to play Serena. This was the moment I practiced for, to play on the biggest stage in tennis.”
Among the notables at Centre Court for the women’s final: British royals Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle, nine-time Wimbledon champion Martina Navratilova, six-time Wimbledon champion Billie Jean King, Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, Formula One Grand Prix driver Lewis Hamilton, and professional golfer Tiger Woods.