Kerber stuns Serena to win Aussie title
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP): Serena Williams put up both hands after sending a forehand long and high over the baseline in the first set. She wanted nothing to do with yet another unforced error in her Australian Open final against Angelique Kerber.
For the second time in as many majors, Williams fell short of equalling Steffi Graf's Open-era record of 22 Grand Slam singles titles.
No. 7-seeded Kerber had never played in a major final and had lost five of her six previous career meetings with Williams, but she responded with a stunning 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 upset win over the six-time Australian Open champion.
Williams had won the title every previous time she'd reached the final at Melbourne Park, and was overwhelming favourite to continue that streak against Kerber, who joked she was "one leg in the plane to Germany" when she faced match point in her first-round win over Misaki Doi.
"I mean, every time I walk in this room, everyone expects me to win every single match, every single day of my life," Williams said in her post-match news conference. "As much as I would like to be a robot, I'm not."
The 28-year-old Kerber used acute angles to keep Williams guessing, tossed in two drop shots for a crucial break in the long sixth game of the third set, and continually tried to pass the 21-time major winner or forced errors at the net.
And she had five service breaks -- two in the first, and three in third set -- against the top-ranked Williams, who hadn't dropped a set in the previous six rounds.
"My whole life I was working really hard and now I'm here and I can say I'm a Grand Slam champion," said Kerber, who had only reached the semi-finals twice at the majors and hadn't been beyond the quarterfinals since Wimbledon in 2012. "It sounds really crazy and unbelievable."
She is the first German woman to win the Australian title since Graf in 1994, and is projected to rise to No. 2 in the rankings next week.
It took her 33 majors to win the title -- sixth on the list for longest waits that is topped by 2015 U.S. Open champion Flavia Pennetta's 49.
Williams admitted previously she became nervous and was stalled for a while trying to get to 18 major titles, to equal Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova's career marks in second spot in the Open era. For three majors, Williams didn't reach the quarterfinals, but when she finally won her 18th, it triggered a roll of four straight major titles.
Now she's on 21.