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Serena Williams’ loss is still tennis’ gain

US player Serena Williams reacts against Germany's Angelique

US player Serena Williams reacts against Germany's Angelique Kerber during their women's singles final match on the twelfth day of the 2018 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Lawn Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on Saturday. Credit: AFP/Getty Images / OLI SCARFF

WIMBLEDON — It may take some time for Serena Williams to get over Saturday’s 6-3, 6-3 loss to Angelique Kerber in the Wimbledon final. With a 23-6 record in Grand Slam finals, Williams is far more accustomed to winning these contests. But taking the longer view, it was pretty improbable that she got this far this quickly.

“I was really happy to get this far,” Williams said. “It’s obviously disappointing, but I can’t be disappointed. I have so much to look forward to. I’m literally just getting started.”

A record slipped through her grasp — tying Margaret Court’s 24 Grand Slam singles titles. But few who watched the match would doubt that Court’s record is still very much at risk.

“She’s just getting started, she’s just not match tough,” tennis Hall of Famer Billie Jean King said. “Sure, I think Serena is going to get 24 because she’s motivated.”

That motivation was on display during the two weeks she played here. She reached the fourth round of the French Open, but a pectoral injury forced her to withdraw. But as she defeated opponents here like Camila Giorgi and Julia Goerges, that incredible competitiveness was on display. This was only her fourth tournament back after the birth of her child.

“No doubt, it’s just she needs more time,” two-time U.S. Open winner Tracy Austin said. “Think about that, 14th match in a year and a half you can’t replicate match play in practice. She’s going to get fitter, this may make her more determined.”

And Austin added: “She’ll get 24 and no doubt she’ll get 25 as well.”

Williams will continue to train and the next Grand Slam arrives in New York at the end of summer.

“You know, I didn’t know a couple of months ago where I was, where I would be, how I would do, how I would be able to come back,” Williams said. “It was such a long way to see light at the end of the road kind of. So I think these two weeks have really showed me that, okay, I can compete. Obviously I can compete for the long run in a Grand Slam. I can, you know, come out and be a contender to win Grand Slams.”

Something else happened during the fortnight, and that was how completely Williams connected with her fans.

“You heard the crowd, they cheered for her start to finish,” said former player Rene Stubbs. “She’s showed her vulnerabilities and emotions.”

The sport’s elder stateswoman agreed.

“She’s transcended tennis,” King said. “Great lovefest and it showed how much love there is for her and I think she appreciates it.”

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