By Britwatch Tennis
- Angelique Kerber def, Serena Williams 6-4 3-6 6-4
- Kerber become the first German woman since Steffi Graf (1999) to win a Grand Slam
- Graf’s record of 22 Slams remains intact, for now.
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – This sounded like a familiar refrain at the start of the pointy end of the tournament – that the [/insert underdog here] would have to get off to a quick start. It didn’t quite work that way for Agnieszka Radwanska, who found herself on the receiving end of Serena Williams on a mission, but it proved to be the perfect catalyst for Angelique Kerber who beat Williams 6-4 3-6 6-4.
The good news was Kerber’s decision to receive after winning the toss gave her a chance to get on the end of Williams’ serves – albeit as the defending champion held to love, but the weak and tentative serving that the German began with, coupled with a double-fault showed the true extent of her nerves. They will have been allayed as she got the game on the board.
Despite still trying to find her range, Williams’ own tightness saw the break point opportunities go Kerber’s way as she capitalised on Williams’ errors for first blood on the board. Williams was looking edgy as the “c’mon’s” ramped up, the squeals of indignation as Kerber passed her again, and although she was in contention, it was by no means the dominance that we had been used to seeing.
Her only answer was to go for Kerber’s second serve, and it paid dividends, getting the break back and giving her a bit of breathing room. Not that her feet understood the message as once more static legwork compared to Kerber scampering after everything in sight handed the German the break straight back.
Williams managed to keep in touch, the volume amping up to the point of potential hindrance, but the biggest test would come when Kerber stepped up to serve for the set at 5-4. We needn’t have worried – a serve to love put the German within a set of winning her maiden slam.
The question would be how would Kerber react to being ahead. She can sometimes struggle with that aspect of either being a favourite or being ahead, and the danger signs were there as Williams racked up three break-points. The serve became a little more tentative once more giving Williams a route back into the match. The German held fast to stay in the set but Williams would force the decider.
Again this would be a big test for Kerber. In exasperation in Singapore I felt that her contention that the stress of knowing she had to win a set to progress to the final was too much for her. If that was too much then how on earth wuld she deal with the pressure of closing out a Slam final – we were about to find out.
Against any other player, some of Williams dinks and drops at the net, fortunate net-cords and the like would be a winner, but with someone of her court coverage capability, she could not get away with that.
Kerber’s ripping passing shots were what made this final a real final, and to be honest it was about time the women’s game had one. With a break and a confident love hold for a 5-2 lead, Williams had to produce the good to stay in the championships.
Dearly loving to break here, Kerber had to stay solid to hold, but Serena can be at her best when up against the wall, and as the tightness took hold as Williams earned the break back.
From 0-30 down Williams did what champions do, reeling off two winners before her forehand let her down. One into the net, one sailing just long from the baseline – the tennis year starts with a maiden winner.
After the match, Williams said: “It was a really good, really intense match. I thought it was really exciting. Even being out there in the moment was pretty cool.
“I was actually really happy for her. She’s been around a really long time. We’ve had a number of matches. I’ve beaten her a lot. She played so well today. She had an attitude that I think a lot of people can learn from: just to always stay positive and to never give up. I was really inspired by that. So, honestly, she’s a really good girl. If I couldn’t win, I’m happy she did.
“It’s interesting. I mean, every time I walk in this room, everyone expects me to win every single match, every single day of my life. As much as I would like to be a robot, I’m not. I try to. I do the best that I can. I try to win every single time I step out there, every single point, but realistically I can’t do it. Maybe someone else can, but I wasn’t able to do it.”
The moment, of course, belongs to a maiden champion, who really enjoyed the moment, and rightly so. She had often joked that she had one foot on a plane back to Germany after being a match point down to Misaki Doi in the first round.
She said: “I think after the first round I was like, Okay, now I have nothing to lose anymore. I was playing actually from round to round better. For sure I get the second chance here I think in this tournament. I was able to take it, you know. I was able to take my second chance and to go for it, to play good matches in these two weeks, yeah, and win at the end the Australian Open. Yeah, it was a crazy two weeks.
“I try to really enjoy every moment, what’s happened right now, taking all the experience with me.”
The men’s final will be played on Sunday at 7:30pm (8:30am)
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