Angelique Kerber spoiled Serena Williams’ Wimbledon fairytale as she became the first German to win the Venus Rosewater Dish since Steffi Graf in 1996.
Williams was the heavy favourite coming into the final but Kerber proved too canny and athletic for the American’s power game, returning serve with interest and using angles to move her opponent round the court and never giving up on a point.
Kerber broke serve in the first game of the match and Williams won only five of her nine service games in an error-strewn performance.
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The American’s tribulations were summed up by one point in the final game of the match when she missed an easy smash with the court at her mercy and fell to the floor in disbelief.
Minutes later it was Kerber who was prostrate on the Centre Court turf as Williams netted a return to hand the 30-year-old German a third Grand Slam title, to go with her Australian and US Open wins in 2016.
Kerber, the former world number one, came into the match as one of only five women to have beaten Williams in a Grand Slam final, and was clearly undaunted by the challenge, moving Williams around the court and absorbing her power shots.
For the first time in the tournament Williams, who has played just 14 matches since returning to the sport after having a baby and suffering health problems, looked short of ideas and energy. And she was unable to come up with an answer for the questions posed by Kerber, the first player in the world’s top 50 that Williams faced at the tournament.
Williams, who had not lost in SW19 since 2014, was aiming for her eighth Wimbledon title and victory would have bought her level with Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam wins. She was also aiming to become only the second mother to win Wimbledon and the first since Evonne Goolagong in 1980.
Not even the presence of close friend Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, in the royal box alongisde Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, could help her, as Kerber won in just over an hour.
But Williams was gracious in defeat. “I was really happy to get this far,” she said. “It’s obviously disappointing but I can’t be disappointed - I have so much to look forward to.”
“Kerber’s tactic of drawing her opponent into playing longer rallies ultimately paid off, with Williams making 24 unforced errors to Kerber’s five and managing only one break of serve,” says The Times.
“While Williams overhit and miscued shots, to the surprise of the Centre Court crowd, Kerber kept her cool and showed great composure when serving for the match.”
Kerber is “one of the defensive masters of the modern game”, says Kevin Mitchell of The Guardian. “And she will frighten everyone around her for the foreseeable future.”
As for Williams: “Nearly 11 months after giving birth to her first child, Olympia, and just 14 matches and two slams into her comeback, Williams more than justified her 25th seeding, but she could not sustain her run when it mattered against a tenacious and clever opponent.”
“Often in the past, defeat has wrecked her. She has maybe reached a more philosophical stage of what has been a wonderful career, and might yet be gilded with another few trophies. Just getting this far after all she has been through over the past couple of years was a considerable achievement.”
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