Serena Williams was denied an historic 22nd Grand Slam singles title with a loss to Germany’s Angelique Kerber Saturday at the Australian Open, 4-6, 6-3, 4-6. Stefi Graf’s 22 Grand Slam singles titles record will remain in tact for now.
The Australian Open was Williams’ first chance to clench her 22nd slam after a stunning semifinal loss at the U.S. Open to Roberta Vinci of Italy last September. A loss that sent shock waves throughout the tennis world. Tennis lovers have been rocked once again by Williams’ stunning defeat at Melbourne Park.
Serena’s goal to tie Graf’s record, and perhaps challenge Margaret Court’s 24 Grand Slam record, remains aloof. Also, now out of Williams’ reach this year is a Calendar Grand Slam. Serena has won all four majors consecutively, but never within a calendar year.
There had been speculation as to the shape of Serena’s game since the 21-time Grand Slam champion had to retire from competition during the Hopman Cup warm-up tournament in early January with knee inflammation. However, the tennis legend quickly quelled rumors with her high-quality play early on at the Australian Open. But Serena’s performance against Kerber in the final was anything but high quality, and was plagued by tense, nervous shots, and riddled with errors.
Williams dropped the first set — her first of the tournament — with a slower, more error-prone start than all her previous rounds. She was broken twice and was tight, slow to get of her marks, and not moving her feet well. Serena eventually got her feet going and improved her movement, but the errors continued to flow.
Perhaps having shaken off some of the nerves, Serena broke early in the second set for a 3-1 lead and consolidated the break for 4-1. Better footwork and more controlled power earned her the set, 6-3. It seemed that order had been restored and that Serena might be back in control.
During the third set, however, Williams’ attempts to come to the net weren’t fruitful. Serena was broken to fall to 0-2. She got back on serve for 2-all, but was once again broken to fall to 2-3, and the tennis legend never got her game consistently back on track.
During the trophy ceremony, Serena stepped to the mic with her signature twirl and wave, and thanked God, the crowd and her team. She also congratulated Angelique Kerber. After hoisting the trophy — her first Grand Slam title — Angelique Kerber took a sigh and said, “I think I got a second chance … [it’s] my dream come true tonight.” After years of toil, the 28-year-old athlete is reaping her sport’s greatest reward.