Move over Steffi Graf, you have company. Serena Williams equalled the great German’s open-era record of 22 grand slam singles titles on Saturday after a hard-fought but well-deserved 7-5, 6-3 victory over another German, Angelique Kerber for her seventh Wimbledon crown.
Having gone close in each of the past three grand slams and having lost to Kerber in the Australian Open final in January, the 34-year-old American edged a tight first set and then held on in the second to clinch an emotional victory and move within two of the all-time grand slam record of 24, held by the Australian Margaret Court.
It was a match worthy of any final as Kerber, in her first Wimbledon final, pushed her all the way, scrapping for everything and using her outstanding speed to run down everything. But her defeat in Melbourne and most recently in the final at Roland Garros had hardened Williams’ resolve even further and Williams was not to be denied. One break, at the end of the first set, put her in front and she pulled away in the second to seal surely the most momentous victory of her incredible career.
The presence of Beyonce in Serena’s player box merely added to the magnitude of the occasion and right from the start, Kerber showed she was not going to be overawed. Just as she did in Melbourne, she held her ground on the baseline and served smartly to keep Williams off balance. On a warm-ish, breezy afternoon, the German saved three break points in the second game to hold and received a massive cheer from the Centre Court crowd, who immediately realised they were in for a treat.
Every blade of grass was covered as the two showed great athleticism to produce some stunning rallies, Kerber defending stoutly and then, especially on the run, coming up with something special at full stretch.
Looking to move forward when she could, Williams finished off a number of points nicely at the net but the set was neck and neck until she fired a massive backhand for a winner to break for 7-5.
Still Kerber was not going away easily and at 3-3, she had her first break point as Williams, for the first time in the match, looked stressed.
But as she has done so many times in her career, she slammed down an ace, with the look on Kerber’s face saying a thousand words. She broke in the next game and then served out flawlessly to love, clinching her place in history with a forehand volley into the open space, before falling flat on her back in celebration.