WIMBLEDON — Angelique Kerber crossed over the crowd on the skywalk from the members-only section of the All England Lawn and Tennis Club to greet her guests on the player patio. An hour after her win, she was practically bouncing. Hugs all around, a champagne toast, all with her newest accessory — a purple pin on her white T-shirt proclaiming her membership in an exclusive club.
Wimbledon Champion — that’s what Kerber is after a 6-3, 6-3 win over Serena Williams on Saturday in the women’s final on Centre Court. It’s the third Grand Slam title for the German, who came into the tournament with the No. 11 seed. Williams, who the club had given the No. 25 seed, may have been the crowd favorite at first, but there was no denying that Kerber earned her championship.
“I cannot describe this feeling because when I was a kid I was always dreaming for this moment,” Kerber said. “To win Wimbledon, it’s something really special in my career.”
Williams became emotional on the court as she addressed the crowd and accepted her runner-up award. She had been going for Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam singles title in just her fourth tournament back from the difficult birth of her daughter Olympia and the complications that came with it. As supporters like royals Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton looked on, with Tiger Woods and Lewis Hamilton in her player box, and stars Shonda Rhimes, Thandie Newton and Emma Watson watching, Williams’ voice cracked.
“To all the moms out there I was playing for you today,” she said. “And I tried.”
It was clear from her opening service game, in which she was broken by Kerber, that Williams’ game was off. Generally Williams can rely on her serve for a few free points, but her speed and accuracy were off. And across the net, Kerber was a better returner than Williams had faced during the fortnight.
“Looking back it was just a step too far,” former player Tracy Austin said. “Serena today played an opponent who was able to sustain an incredible level. How many times did we think Serena won the point and Kerber got that extra ball back in play?”
A crucial stat was the unforced errors — Williams had 24 of them to Kerber’s 5. While Williams would set up a point and get to the payoff shot, too often she’d send the ball straight into the net. Kerber was whipping the ball into corners and testing Williams’ fitness.
“I was quite nervous before the match,” Kerber said. “But I was trying to tell myself, ‘Go out there and play your best match,’ because I know that against Serena I have to play my best tennis, especially in the important moments.”
Kerber won the Australian Open and the U.S. Open in 2016, but struggled the following year. Her confidence and her ranking sank. She finished 2016 ranked No. 1, but ended 2017 at No. 21 without a single title, and got no deeper than the fourth round at any slam.
“I think without 2017 I couldn’t win this tournament,” Kerber said. “I think I learned a lot from last year, with all the expectation, all the things I go through. I learned so many things about myself, about the things around, how to deal with this, how to make my day schedule. I think that, yeah, I tried to enjoy every single moment now.”
Angelique Kerber’s Wimbledon victory ended a string of seven different winners in women’s Grand Slam events:
French OpenSimona Halep
Australian OpenCaroline Wozniacki
2017U.S. OpenSloane Stephens
French OpenJelena Ostapenko
Australian OpenSerena Williams
2016U.S. OpenAngelique Kerber
By the numbers .... Kerber ..... Williams
Aces 1 4
Unforced errors 5 24
Avg. serve speed 97 105
Break points 7 1
Break points won 4 1
Return points won
on 2nd serves 69% 41%