Australian Open: Angelique Kerber stuns Serena Williams to win first major title

Kerber becomes the first German to win a Grand Slam title since her childhood idol Steffi Graf

Paul Newman
Tennis Correspondent
Saturday 30 January 2016 12:01
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Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber
Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber

Steffi Graf is still the only woman in the Open era to have won 22 Grand Slam titles after her fellow German, Angelique Kerber, produced one of the biggest surprises of recent years to win the Australian Open here yesterday.

Serena Williams had been the outstanding favourite to claim her 22nd major trophy, but the 28-year-old Kerber, competing in her first Grand Slam final, played the match of her life to win 6-4 3-6 6-4.

“I think I helped Steffi right now,” Kerber said after her victory. “It sounds crazy, but I can say I’m a Grand Slam champion now.”

Kerber is the first German to win a Grand Slam singles title since Graf won her last in 1999. Graf was among those to send messages of congratulations which Kerber said had made her phone “explode”.

Williams, playing her first tournament since her defeat by Roberta Vinci at the US Open in September ended her dream of winning a pure calendar-year Grand Slam, had looked unstoppable in her first six matches, but fell short as Kerber delivered a stunning performance in a memorable final.

Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber

The world No 6, who will climb to a career-high position of No 2 next week, has been a regular member of the top 10 but had previously won only four titles. Four months after Flavia Pennetta won her first Grand Slam title in New York in her 49th appearance, Kerber won her first in her 33rd. Last year, the German lost in the first round here and at the same stage this time around she saved a match point against Misaki Doi.

However, Kerber has always been an outstanding athlete and after working hard over the winter and losing weight she is fitter and quicker than ever. The German, who had won only one of her previous six meetings with Williams, kept retrieving balls, hit some superb drop shots and gave almost nothing away, making only 13 unforced errors compared to Williams’ 46. Williams, who had won all six of her previous Australian Open finals, regularly came forward, but Kerber thrived on having a target at the net.

Half of Williams’ errors came in the first set, but the 34-year-old American recovered her poise in the second. The turning point in the third came when Kerber broke to go 4-2 up after a game of five deuces. Kerber was broken when she served for the match at 5-3, but Williams dropped her serve for the fifth and last time in the following game.

At the end, Williams came round to Kerber’s side of the net to congratulate her and was all smiles during the presentation ceremony. She said later that she found Kerber’s positive approach inspiring and described her as “a really good girl”.

Williams added: “Everyone expects me to win every single match, every single day of my life. As much as I would like to be a robot, I’m not.”

Reid sets up Scottish swoop

Gordon Reid

Gordon Reid got Scotland’s special weekend off to a flying start here yesterday when he claimed his first Grand Slam singles wheelchair title, beating Belgium’s Joachim Gerard 7-6 6-4 in a high-quality final, writes Paul Newman.

With Jamie Murray winning the men’s doubles title, it will be down to Andy Murray to complete a Scottish treble in today’s singles final.

Reid (pictured) later joined forces with Shingo Kunieda in the doubles final but they were beaten 6-3 3-6 7-5 by France’s Stéphane Houdet and Nicolas Peifer.

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