By Amanda Barlow

  • Serena Williams [1] def. Angelique Kerber [4] 7-5 6-3
  • Williams draws level with Steffi Graf on 22 titles

WIMBLEDON, UK – Serena Williams continues to establish herself as (in her words) one of the greatest athletes of all time, as she won her 22nd Grand Slam title at Wimbledon.

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It is probably fair to say that when the 28-year-old Kerber fronted up to Serena Williams in Melbourne, having had one foot on a flight back home in her opening round, few would have given her much chance to withstand the expected barrage from Williams.

Yet she did more that night – she withstood and hit back, and she would need to do much the same. Grass can be extremely unforgiving – take your eye off the ball (literally) and that could be your set gone in an instant. And if that serve is not firing against arguably one of the best returners of the game, well woe betide you.

There were nerves, arguably from both players and it was clear that Williams was not going to have it all her own way. Sure there were plenty of hefty winning serves too, but as Kerber warmed up, and indeed as the crowd warmed up to her, the battle was on.

It had to be said – as they both got into the match the crowd the rallies and the intensity had the crowd rapt with attention. Kerber knew she would have to really start going for the lines, and she did not pull any punches. But the thing about grass is a single lapse of concentration and the set could go really quickly.

Having stayed toe-to-toe with Williams and not given her any room to manoeuvre since saving those three break points in that first service game, the end of the first set came around quickly as a couple of loose points gave Serena her first set points.

Kerber was able to save one, but it would be Williams to strike out for home first. Credit to the German – it would have been easy, if not characteristic of her to drop her head and mentally check out. In fact throughout the second set there was a sense that it would be Williams’ head that would drop as Kerber seemed to gain in confidence with each winner ripped past Williams, whipping up the crowd in the process.

The ball-battering began to be relentless from the pair as Kerber repeatedly tried to work the point and force Williams into over-pressing, and the chance was there as Kerber brought up her one solitary break point, but that did not last long as Williams dispatched it easily.

It felt almost tragic that after one of the best exchanges this pair had at the net with quick fire volleys at the end of another one of their rallies would result in Kerber losing that hold, but it was enough to hand Williams the chance to serve it out.

Three unreturnables, and a cheeky volley once Kerber got on the end of a serve was enough to send Williams falling backwards to the turf, claiming her first grand slam in a year.

There was a warm and touching moment at the net – Kerber will have had to carry the hopes of a dejected nation after Die Mannschaft’s departure from Euro 2016, not to mention protecting Graf’s record for one more time.

 

After the match, BBC Sport’s Sue Barker spoke to both players.

“I just want to say really congrats to Serena. You really deserve the title, your next title. You’re a great champion and a great person,” said an emotional Kerber.

“It’s always an honor to play against you in the final. We played a great match – really, congrats! You deserve it. Well done Serena.”

Williams repaid the complement before admitting that the prospect of #22 had loomed large.

“Obviously, Angelique – you know, I love playing her. She’s such a great opponent, she really brings out the best tennis in me,” she said. “And once we get off the court, she’s such a wonderful person to be around just to smile at. Thank you for being a great person.

“It’s been incredibly difficult not to think about it. I had a couple of tries this year and I lost to two incredible opponents – one of them being Angelique! But it makes the victory even sweeter, to know how hard I’ve worked for it.”

 

Wimbledon concludes with the men’s singles final which starts at 2pm BST.

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