July 14, 2018
Angelique Kerber spoilt Serena’s party by winning her first Wimbledon title with some supremely free-flowing tennis.
Serena, in contrast, never relaxed. Her drive volley in the final game, with all the court beckoning, flew hopelessly long as if to illustrate the point.
Angelique enjoyed being underdog. Her game was fluent. Glory came swiftly, and the 6-3, 6-3 scoreline made it all sound so routine.
As though beating arguably the world’s greatest ever player were that simple!
After claiming the Australian and US Opens in 2016, Kerber only requires the French to achieve a Career Slam.
But the day was supposed to belong to Williams and the history books. It was meant to be the final that saw Williams equal Margaret Court’s long-standing record of 24 Grand Slams.
But Serena faced a more troubling foe than Kerber alone. She had to beat the weight of expectation that has always been her biggest enemy.
Earlier in the tournament, Williams had been astonished, almost outraged by the notion that the title was hers by right, once the top seeds had fallen.
She reminded us that she ‘almost didn’t make it’ after giving birth by emergency caesarian less than a year ago. She needed several surgeries to clear blood clots on the lungs, she hasn’t been back on the court for long.
And yet, despite all these realities, the final was treated as a foregone conclusion, a celebration of Serena’s might, with little mention of Kerber’s return to sparkling form.
So Williams played with the weight of the world on her shoulders. Kerber played freely. There could only be one winner under those circumstances.
Yet it was typical of Serena to battle back from an early break, launch into Kerber with her own repertoire, and lead 3-2 before we knew it.
However, this was no nervous Kerber from 2016, new to a Wimbledon final and almost ready for the inevitable.
This Kerber simply broke the fearsome Serena serve a second time to lead 4-3. Then she stayed relaxed enough on her own serve to hold, leaving Williams serving to stay in the first set.
Serena looked tense and tight, her aim wavered, her volley no more than a dab into the net when she needed to be assertive.
When she did battle at the net once more, Serena lacked conviction and had to rely on Angelique’s lob landing long to avoid the pressure of two set points.
Kerber maintained the stranglehold though, and soon earned herself a set point after all. When Williams couldn’t clear the net under fresh pressure, she had been broken yet again. This time it cost her the first set.
Serena was soon right up against it in the second, one game down and trailing 15-30 on her own serve. Somehow she produced a dream volley when it mattered and managed to level with a roar.
But could she make a dent on Kerber’s serve again? When the chance came to smash her way to break points, Williams looked incredibly tentative, and let Kerber back in. Angelique didn’t need a second invitation and soon led 2-1.
Later, as Williams served to try to level at 3-3, she lost all composure at the net, as though stuck in the middle of a minefield.
Kerber secured the break with a thumping forehand, the powerful precision of her sweeping left arm there for all to see.
From there, the result was virtually certain, even though Serena thrashed and toiled to turn the tide.
Serena fought back the tears and said: ‘Obviously I am very disappointed but I can’t be that disappointed because I have all this amazing support.’
Kerber said: ‘This is a dream come true, thank you to my family, my friends and my team…’
Well done Angelique Kerber. Revenge for her 2016 final defeat. Wimbledon champion, 2018!