Serena tops Kerber, ties Graf's Slam mark
Serena Williams insisted she was not focused on No. 22. Said she wouldn't discuss it.
Kept coming close without quite getting it.
Now she finally has it. And so she can flaunt it.
Williams lifted both arms overhead and raised two fingers on each hand right there on Centre Court to show off the magic number after winning her record-tying 22nd Grand Slam title by beating Angelique Kerber 7-5, 6-3 in the Wimbledon final yesterday.
"Definitely had some sleepless nights, if I'm just honest, with a lot of stuff," Williams said. "My goal is to win always at least a Slam a year. It was getting down to the pressure."
She pulled even with Steffi Graf for the most major championships in the Open era, which began in 1968. Now Williams stands behind only Margaret Court's all-time mark of 24.
This was Williams' seventh singles trophy at the All England Club - only Martina Navratilova, with nine, has more in the Open era - and second in a row. The victory at Wimbledon a year ago raised her Grand Slam count to 21, where it remained until yesterday.
"It's been incredibly difficult not to think about it. I had a couple of tries this year," said Williams, who went back on court a few hours later to win the doubles title with older sister Venus. "But it makes the victory even sweeter to know how hard I worked for it."
There was a stunning loss to Roberta Vinci in the U.S. Open semifinals in September, ending Williams' bid for a calendar-year Grand Slam. Then losses in finals to Kerber at the Australian Open, and to Garbine Muguruza at the French Open.
In the rematch against the fourth-seeded Kerber - the first time in a decade two women met to decide multiple major titles in a single season - the No. 1-ranked Williams came through. This goes alongside six championships at the U.S. Open, six at the Australian Open and three at the French Open.
The 34-year-old American did it, as she often does, with nearly impeccable serving. She slammed 13 aces. She won 38 of 43 first-serve points. She faced just one break point - at 3-all in the second set, representing Kerber's only real opening - and shut the door emphatically with aces at 117 mph and 124 mph.
There was more that Williams did well, though. Much more. Facing the left-handed Kerber's reactive, counter-punching style, Williams dictated exchanges and compiled a 39-12 edge in winners.
"I was trying everything, but she deserved it today. She really played an unbelievable match," said Kerber, who hadn't appeared in a major final until beating Williams in Melbourne. "I think we both (played) on a really high level."
Kerber, a German who knows Graf well, defeated Venus in the semi-finals and hadn't dropped a set until Saturday. But she could not keep up with the trophy on the line, although it was a high-quality final that was tighter than the scoreline might indicate.
Later Saturday, Williams earned a second piece of hardware when she and Venus defeated Timea Babos and Yaroslava Shvedova 6-3, 6-4 for their sixth doubles trophy at Wimbledon and 14th from all majors.
"If anything, I was able to show resilience that, no, that's not going to shake me, you're not going to break me," Williams said, "it's going to make me stronger."
So, Williams was asked yesterday, is she already thinking about No. 25, to surpass Court?
"Oh, God, no," Williams said. "One thing I learned about last year is to enjoy the moment. I'm definitely going to enjoy this."