Serena Williams’ chase for Grand Slam singles title No. 22 is finally over.
After coming up short in three consecutive majors, Williams tied Steffi Graf’s mark with a 7-5, 6-3 win over Angelique Kerber in Saturday’s Wimbledon final.
“It makes the victory even sweeter to know how hard I worked for it,” Williams said on the court after the match. “I don’t know what else to say. I’m so excited.”
In a tight, high-quality match, the best server in the history of women’s tennis ultimately prevailed over one of the game’s top returners.
Kerber won the opening coin toss and elected to receive, as she had broken Williams five times to win the Australian Open final earlier this year. She would have no such luck Saturday. Williams dominated on serve, firing 13 aces, winning 88 percent of her first-serve points and only allowing one break point throughout the entire match.
“I knew that I needed to hold serve because I really wasn’t feeling her serve that well the way I had earlier times we’ve played before,” Williams told ESPN after the match. “The conditions were really windy so I was like OK, I absolutely have to hold serve out here.”
Kerber held her own, though, staying dedicated to her game plan. After saving three break points in her opening service game, Kerber got into a rhythm. She drew Williams into rallies, which she dominated by making Williams chase the ball from side-to-side.
Kerber with one of the shots of the match to end a great rally a few moments ago pic.twitter.com/uQB2rBAnAB
— John Burn-Murdoch (@jburnmurdoch) July 9, 2016
But needing to hold to stay in the opening set with Williams up 6-5, Kerber finally blinked and Williams moved one set closer to the title.
The quality continued into the second set, with Kerber trying her best to push Williams off her game. Kerber earned her first break point of the match at 3-3, but Williams closed any opening she had with an emphatic ace.
“This is how Serena is playing,” Kerber said in her post-match press conference. “I had one break point, and I couldn’t do nothing. I was trying to be tough, to being in the match, trying to fight until the last point … Serena was today the one who won the match.”
Williams would not be denied in her quest for history, breaking Kerber at 4-3. After holding strong to win her seventh Wimbledon title, Williams fell to the ground in celebration, and perhaps, a bit of relief.
The legend grows.
Serena is warmly congratulated at the net by Kerber after winning her 22nd Grand Slam title. https://t.co/y4eiNRGvcl
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 9, 2016
Saturday’s win was Williams’ unprecedented ninth title over the age of 30. Her seventh title came 14 years after her first in 2002.
“I didn’t play a lot of junior matches growing up and I just did a lot of practicing,” Williams told ESPN, explaining her longevity. “I was talking to [older sister] Venus [Williams] about it the other day about how we’ve been here for so long and how we’re still doing really well. We’re still having so much fun. I’m just really fortunate.”
She now stands side-by-side with Graf for most major titles in the Open era, and is only two titles behind Margaret Court’s all-time mark.
Williams’ Wimbledon run is not yet over, as she and her sister will try for another doubles title later in the day.