Fi­nal a bridge too far for Ser­ena

Sunday Times - - Sport -

● An­gelique Ker­ber be­came the first Ger­man woman to win Wim­ble­don for 22 years as the 11th seed shat­tered Ser­ena Wil­liams’ bid for grand slam his­tory with a shock 6-3 6-3 vic­tory in yes­ter­day’s fi­nal.

Ker­ber avenged her de­feat against Wil­liams in the 2016 Wim­ble­don ti­tle match, over­whelm­ing the seven-time cham­pion.

“I knew I had to play my best ten­nis against a cham­pion like Ser­ena,” Ker­ber said. “It was my sec­ond chance to play in the fi­nal. I think I’m the next one af­ter St­effi who won. That’s amaz­ing.” Wil­liams had hoped to equal Mar­garet Court’s record of 24 grand slam sin­gles ti­tles by win­ning her first ma­jor since be­com­ing a mother in Septem­ber.

The 36-year-old, who last won a grand Slam at the 2017 Aus­tralian Open, went into the fi­nal as the favourite, even though she was play­ing only the fourth tour­na­ment of her post-preg­nancy come­back.

But in­stead world No 10 Ker­ber be­came Ger­many’s first fe­male cham­pion at the All Eng­land Club since St­effi Graf in 1996.

“It’s ob­vi­ously dis­ap­point­ing but I am just get­ting started,” said an emo­tional Wil­liams af­ter los­ing in the Wim­ble­don fi­nal for the first time since 2008.

“For all you mums out there I was play­ing for you. I re­ally tried.” Graf helped Ker­ber get her game on track ear­lier in her ca­reer, so it was espe­cially sweet for the 30-year-old to fol­low in her foot­steps at Wim­ble­don.

Ker­ber en­dured a sig­nif­i­cant slump last year af­ter win­ning her pre­vi­ous ma­jor ti­tles at the Aus­tralian and US Opens in 2016.

But, back to her best on the grass at Wim­ble­don, she needed only 11 win­ners and one ace to deny an oddly ner­vous Ser­ena, who con­trib­uted to her own down­fall with a whop­ping 24 un­forced er­rors, com­pared to only five from Ker­ber. In the first Wim­ble­don fi­nal for 41 years to fea­ture two women 30 or older, Ser­ena was cheered on by the Duchess of Sus­sex, golf leg­end Tiger Woods and For­mula One ace Lewis Hamil­ton.

Left need­ing sev­eral life-sav­ing op­er­a­tions to deal with the threat of blood clots af­ter giv­ing birth, Wil­liams was un­able to walk for six weeks and even now is haunted by har­row­ing flash­backs to that pe­riod.

Ser­ena’s 30th grand slam fi­nal got off to a rocky start as she dropped her serve with four un­forced er­rors in the open­ing game.

Play had started two hours late due to the conclusion of No­vak Djokovic’s win over Rafael Nadal in the men’s semi­fi­nals, and it was Ser­ena who looked more af­fected by the de­lay. She briefly hit back, break­ing to love in the fourth game, but then pro­duced an­other er­ror-strewn ef­fort, in­clud­ing two dou­ble faults, to gift a 4-3 lead to Ker­ber.

Though Wil­liams was on a 20-match win­ning run at Wim­ble­don and had lost only one set en route to the fi­nal, she was com­pletely out of sorts, spray­ing wild ground-strokes wide time and again. Ker­ber, clev­erly mov­ing Ser­ena into awk­ward po­si­tions, took full ad­van­tage.

For all you mums out there I was play­ing for you. I re­ally tried

Ser­ena Wil­liams

Beaten Wim­ble­don fi­nal­ist

Pic­ture: AFP

Ger­many's An­gelique Ker­ber poses with the win­ner's tro­phy, the Venus Rose­wa­ter Dish, af­ter her women's sin­gles fi­nal vic­tory over US player Ser­ena Wil­liams.

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