Kerber Denies Serena, Claims First Major Title
Niall Clarke, Tennis Atlantic
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Angelique Kerber shocked the world and Serena Williams by defeating the world number one in three sets to claim her first grand slam title and in the process, deny Serena number 22.
In a thrilling final, Kerber came through 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in two hours and ten minutes to stun the tennis world and become the first German since 1999 to win a major title.
The German was a huge under-dog heading into Saturday’s final. After all, Serena had coasted through the draw and had looked imperious throughout the fortnight- it seemed like nothing would stand in her way.
What nobody counted on was a 28-year-old roadblock in the final leg. Kerber retrieved and retrieved and countered with interest, but more importantly she rarely let the occasion get to her. It was an unexpected and impressive performance- even if she did have a bit of help.
The world number one was error prone and despite her clear attempts at trying to get something going, it just wasn’t happening. Kerber remained consistent and her retrieval skills forced Williams to go for more than she perhaps needed. Careless errors were rife and the pressure of matching Steffi Graf might have been playing on the mind of Serena.
To the surprise of almost everyone Kerber took the first set 6-4, but the thoughts of almost anyone were ‘when will Williams kick into gear’. In reality it didn’t take the American raising her level to find the break with Kerber throwing in her first bad game of the match to concede an early break in the second set. Two double faults and an unforced error proved to be costly, and Williams went on to level the match.
The German went up an early break in the final set but conceded it straight back to Williams. But Kerber kept fighting and earned another break and the chance to serve out the match. However, the pressure of winning her maiden grand slam title clearly got to the German and Serena was allowed back into the match- only briefly.
Despite being 40-30 down at 5-4, Kerber played two great points to earn championship point. What was to come was shocking as Serena seemingly had an easy volley winner only to miss it and see her Australian Open chances go down the drain. Kerber had done it. She had defeated the world number one and won her first major title. It is a culmination of a great story that saw the rise of the German from relative obscurity in 2011 to grand slam champion and world number two in 2016.
“You know, I mean, I had really crazy two weeks. I mean, with the first round where I was match point down, and then with the win over Azarenka in the quarters. I never beat her.” Kerber said in her post match press conference. (http://www.ausopen.com/en_AU/news/interviews/2016-01-30/angelique_kerber_300116.html)
“And now to play against Serena, what was a really honor to play against her in a Grand Slam final. It was my first final. You know, I was really looking forward. I was really excited.
“I knew before that I beat her once in Cincinnati, that I really must go out there to try to beat her again because she will not give it to me. It was a really great match from both of us.
“Yeah, really it’s a special moment for me.”
Serena must continue her wait for the record-equalling 22nd Grand Slam title which is oddly enough held by another German in Graf. But despite the huge disappointment, Serena showed a lot of class post match, congratulating Kerber and being happy for her opponent.
“I was actually really happy for her. She’s been around a really long time. We’ve had a number of matches. I’ve beaten her a lot.” Williams said in her post match press conference (http://www.ausopen.com/en_AU/news/interviews/2016-01-30/serena_williams_300116.html)
“She played so well today. She had an attitude that I think a lot of people can learn from: just to always stay positive and to never give up.
“I was really inspired by that. So, honestly, she’s a really good girl. If I couldn’t win, I’m happy she did.”
And what about matching that record. Did the pressure have an effect on the final? Serena weighed in.
“I was nervous before the match. Once it got started, it was so intense from the beginning till the end that I didn’t really have time to be nervous.” The world number one said
“No, I didn’t think about the record at all. I think more or less I thought just about winning this match. It wasn’t necessarily the record for me.”
The thrilling finale capped off a dramatic Australian Open that saw plenty of stories and shocks along the way. One of the biggest came in form of Shuai Zhang who came through qualifying to make to win her first Grand Slam main draw match and reach the Quarter Finals. She upset second seed Simona Halep in round one before going on to be knocked out by Johanna Konta in the last eight.
The Brit made some headlines herself by going all the way to the last four, defeating the likes of Venus Williams and Ekaterina Makarova on the way. Konta however found the eventual champion Kerber a too big of task. But it was still an amazing two weeks for the British number one.
All in all it was another showcase for women’s tennis and why it can offer excitement and entertainment of the highest level.