TENNIS: Angelique Kerber did her best to defend her childhood idol’s record, but Serena Williams’ onslaught on history proved irresistible.
Ever since her triumph at Wimbledon 12 months ago, Williams had been just one victory away from equalling Steffi Graf’s Open-era record of 22 grand slam singles titles. She finally achieved her goal by beating Kerber in one of the best recent Wimbledon finals.
Kerber, who had denied Williams her 22nd title by beating her in the Australian Open final, again pushed the world No.1 hard before losing 7-5, 6-3.
After hitting the winning volley to secure her seventh Wimbledon title, Williams fell on her back in relief as much as celebration.
In the 17 years since she won her first grand slam title at the 1999 US Open Williams had grown accustomed to winning — she lost just four of her first 25 major finals — but in the past 10 months she has had to cope repeatedly with the pain of defeat on the biggest stages.
The world No.1 did not play again for nearly four months after her semi-final loss to Roberta Vinci in the semi-finals of the US Open in September, and this year she lost in the finals of the Australian and French Opens to Kerber and Garbine Muguruza, respectively.
“I’ve definitely had some sleepless nights, if I’m just honest, with a lot of stuff — coming so close, feeling it, not being able to quite get there,” she said. “I put a lot of that pressure on myself. I had some really tough losses.
“I had to start looking at positives, not focussing on that one loss per tournament, which really isn’t bad. Anyone else on this tour would be completely happy about it. Once I started focussing more on the positives, I realised that I’m pretty good. Then I started playing a little better.”
Having equalled Graf’s record, attention may now switch to whether Williams can match Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles and Martina Navratilova’s record of nine Wimbledon singles titles.
Later, Williams and sister Venus won their fifth Wimbledon women’s doubles title, beating Timea Babos and Yaroslava Shvedova 6-3, 6-4.
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