Wimbledon 2016

Tennis: Third time lucky as Serena Williams equals Steffi Graf's 22 grand slam titles

Overwhelmed by her victory, Serena Williams falls to the grass after winning 7-5, 6-3 against Angelique Kerber in the Wimbledon women's singles final.
Overwhelmed by her victory, Serena Williams falls to the grass after winning 7-5, 6-3 against Angelique Kerber in the Wimbledon women's singles final.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

After two straight Grand Slam final losses this year, she beats Kerber to match Graf's 22 titles

LONDON • Move over Steffi Graf, you have company.

Serena Williams equalled the great German's Open-era record of 22 Grand Slam singles titles yesterday, after a hard-fought 7-5, 6-3 victory over Angelique Kerber for her seventh Wimbledon crown.

Having gone close in each of the past three grand slam tournaments and having lost to Kerber in the Australian Open final in January, the 34-year-old American won a tight first set and then held on in the second to clinch an emotional victory.

"It's a great feeling to be here. Angelique brings out great tennis in me," she said. "No. 22 is awesome. Centre Court feels like home."

Williams moves within two titles of the all-time grand slam record of 24, held by the Australian Margaret Court.

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    Serena Williams' seven Wimbledon titles have, with the exception of 2012, come in pairs - 2002-03, 2009-10 and now 2015-16.

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    Aces Williams served against Kerber, above her average of 10 in the six rounds (61 total) before the final.

It was a match worthy of any final as Kerber, in her first Wimbledon final, pushed the American all the way, scrapping for everything and using her outstanding speed to run down every ball.

But Williams' defeat by the German in Melbourne and then by Garbine Muguruza in last month's French Open final had hardened her resolve, and the world No. 1 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 one of the most momentous wins of her storied career.

The presence of pop royalty Beyonce and Jay-Z in Williams' box merely added to the magnitude of the occasion but, right from the start, Kerber showed she was not going to be overawed.

Just as she did in Melbourne, the German held her ground on the baseline and served smartly to keep Williams off balance.

On a warm, breezy afternoon, the first set was neck and neck until Williams fired a massive backhand for a winner to break for 7-5.

Still Kerber was not going away easily and, at 3-3 in the second set she had her first break point with Williams looking stressed.

Yet, as she has done so many times in her career, the American 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.

Kerber said the American was a great champion: "Serena, you deserve it, you are a great champion and great person. We played a great match."

Williams was all smiles as she paraded the Venus Rosewater Dish around Centre Court after collecting a cheque for £2 million (S$3.5 million).

The far more significant reward is the knowledge that she has re-established her supremacy at a time when doubters were beginning to question her hunger for more silverware after consecutive Slam final defeats this year.

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 10, 2016, with the headline 'Third time lucky as Serena equals Steffi'. Print Edition | Subscribe