Angelique Kerber was so steady, so patient, so accurate throughout the Wimbledon final, she never really gave Serena Williams much of a chance.
Kerber won her first championship at the All England Club and third major overall by playing cleanly and picking her spots for big shots, beating Williams 6-3, 6-3 on Saturday.
“I knew that I had to play my best tennis against a champion like Serena,” said Kerber, the first German woman to win Wimbledon since Steffi Graff in 1996.
Kerber made only five unforced errors the entire match, 19 fewer than Williams. Perhaps more impressive was that she broke Williams in four of nine service games.
The 30-year-old German lost to Williams in the 2016 Wimbledon final. She beat Williams in the Australian Open final that year, then won that year’s U.S. Open to briefly replace her at No. 1 in the rankings.
Kerber addressed Williams during the on-court interviews, saying: “You’re such an inspiration for everybody, for all of us. I’m sure you will have your next Grand Slam title soon. I’m really, really sure.”
‘I can compete’
Williams was indeed ready to look ahead.
“I didn’t know a couple of months ago where I was, where I would be, how I would do, how I would be able to come back. It was such a long way to see light at the end of the road, kind of,” said Williams, who gave birth to a daughter last September, then dealt with complications involving blood clots.
“So I think these two weeks have really showed me that, OK, I can compete. Obviously I can compete for the long run in a Grand Slam,” the 36-year-old American said. “I can, you know, come out and be a contender to win Grand Slams.”
There was a time, not all that long ago, that Williams was ranked No. 1 for years at a time. She won four major tournaments in a row and came close to a calendar-year Grand Slam. She was the favorite every time she entered a tournament.
Williams appeared to be regaining that form this fortnight. Barring some sort of setback in the next six weeks, she will head into the U.S. Open at the end of August as the player to beat.
If Williams does earn one more, it’ll tie her with Margaret Court for the all-time record of 24. As it is, Williams has the mark for the most majors in the professional era; she moved one ahead of Graf by winning the 2017 Australian Open.
She was pregnant at the time. It would be her last tournament for more than a year, in part because of a series of medical procedures that followed a difficult childbirth. As she put it this week: “I lost count after, like, four surgeries.”
Williams didn’t enter another major until this May, at the French Open, where she won the three matches she played before withdrawing with a chest muscle injury. After a little more time off, she played the fourth tournament of her comeback at Wimbledon.
“I just like to tell all the moms, like, I had such a long struggle to come back, and it was really difficult,” Williams said. “Honestly, I feel like if I can do it, they can do it.”