Angelique Kerber Holds Off Serena Williams to Win Wimbledon


Angelique Kerber Holds Off Serena Williams to Win Wimbledon

Angelique Kerber, holding the champion’s dish, after defeating Serena Williams in the Wimbledon final on Saturday.CreditNeil Hall/EPA, via Shutterstock

By Naila-Jean Meyers

WIMBLEDON, England — Angelique Kerber defeated Serena Williams, 6-3, 6-3, to win her first Wimbledon title on Saturday.

The victory gave Kerber, 30, a late-blooming left-hander from Germany, her third Grand Slam title since the beginning of 2016.

The result was not technically an upset, with Kerber seeded 11th and Williams 25th. Their ranking disparity is even wider, with Kerber at No. 10 and Williams No. 181.

But Williams is a seven-time Wimbledon champion with 23 major singles titles. On Saturday, she was attempting to tie Margaret Court’s record of 24, which has stood since 1973.

Williams, 36, was playing only her fourth tournament on tour after giving birth to her daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr., on Sept. 1, 2017. She has said throughout the past two weeks that she did not need to win the title here, that she was trying only to prove she was back.

Back she most certainly is.

“I was really happy to get this far,” Williams said after the match as she fought back tears. “I’m literally just getting started.”

Williams had played — and won — the 2017 Australian Open while two months pregnant, but she did not play again on tour until 13 months later. She suffered severe complications after her cesarean section, including a pulmonary embolism, a medical problem she has experienced in the past.

She acknowledged she may have come back too soon, and struggled with her fitness and her timing in her four matches in March, losing two of them. She took another two-month break before returning for the French Open in late May, winning three matches before withdrawing with a pectoral injury.

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Despite a chaotic women’s tournament at Wimbledon in which none of the top 10 seeded players made the quarterfinals, Saturday’s final still featured a pair of Grand Slam champions and former No. 1 players. By making it that far, Williams assured her ranking would rise to 28th.

With her court coverage and counterpunching style, Kerber is proving to be a formidable foil to Williams. The two met in two close Grand Slam finals in 2016, with Kerber winning at the Australian Open and Williams at Wimbledon.

Kerber went on to claim the 2016 United States Open and become No. 1 for the first time. But she struggled to back up those results in 2017, when she won no tournaments and fell to No. 21.

She rebuilt her support team and hired Wim Fissette as her coach, and she is back in the top 10 and contending for majors.

This round of the budding rivalry went to Kerber, but with both players in top form again, there may be more big matches to come.

The start of Saturday’s match was delayed by about two hours because of the completion of the men’s semifinal between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, which had been suspended on Friday night.

Williams appeared tight from the start on Saturday and was broken in the first game. Her serve, normally her most formidable weapon, was broken four times in the match.

Kerber was the steadier player, with only five unforced errors to Williams’s 24. Kerber is the first German woman to win Wimbledon since Steffi Graf in 1996.

“I knew I had to play my best tennis against a champion like Serena,” Kerber said.

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