AFTER three failed attempts, world number one, Serena Williams clinched her 22nd Grand Slam singles title on Saturday, beating German Angelique Kerber, 7-5, 6-3 to claim the 2016 Wimbledon diadem which has the prize money of $2million (about N700million)
It was the seventh Wimbledon title won by the American and the feat made her to equal Steffi Graf’s Open era record of 22 major titles.
Serena is now two more titles short of equalling Margaret Court, the Australian who won 13 of her 24 major titles before tennis turned professional in 1968.
The Saturday’s final at the centre court of the All England Tennis Club, London, lived up to its billing, but the outcome may have come as a surprise to some bookmakers who believed that the devastating form of Kerber could further dash the hope of Serena in winning her 22 majors.
Perhaps, since she won the 2015 Wimbledon in July last year for her 21st Grand Slam title, winning another Grand Slam had more or less become a jinx for Serena, as she had lost on three occasions before her victory on Saturday.
Saturday’s final was a rematch of sorts as Serena, who first won the Wimbledon title in 2002 had in January this year, lost to the German in the Australian Open final, 4-6, 6-3, 4-6, but had a sweet revenge this time.
Serena was also beaten last month in the final of the French Open by Spain’s Garbine Muguruza 5-7, 4-6.
She was humiliated by a lowly-rated Italian Roberta Vinci in the semi-final of the US Open last September 2-6, 6-4, 6-4, which remains one of the major upsets in tennis history.
The American this time held onto the Wimbledon title for the second year running with her sublime performance, but her triumph over fourth seed Kerber did not come on a platter of gold.
Unlike her easy ride to the final at the expense of Russian Elena Vesnina in 48 minutes 6-2, 6-0, the first set against Kerber lasted 47 minutes before she claimed tops on 7-5, but she regained her dominance in the last set after the seventh game at 3-3 which she maintained to the break point.
“It’s been incredibly difficult not to think about it,” an elated Serena said after she finally made it 22 majors.
“It makes the victory even sweeter to know how hard I worked hard for it.
“This court definitely feels like home, I have a match later today (Saturday) in the doubles, so I’ll be back out.”
The 28-year-old Kerber, was the outsider but buoyed by her win over Williams in Melbourne, and the swirling wind added another element of uncertainty to the final.
The German’s serve was under pressure immediately but after she saw off three break points in the second game, Kerber managed to contain Williams for the most part with her relentless hitting from corner to corner.
A pumped-up Williams roared in celebration after one lunging volley, and again when three serves got her out of trouble at 5-5, and it was Kerber’s resistance which broke first.
After a carefully managed 12 games, the German made only her fourth and fifth errors of the set to fall 15-40 behind, before Williams converted her second set point with a thumping backhand into the corner.
Kerber was not about to fold, however, finally earning her first break point of the match at 3-3 in the second set after one hour and 13 minutes – only to watch as Williams hammered a 117mph ace out wide.
And moments later, an engrossing final came to a sudden end.
Kerber mis-hit a backhand to drop serve and Williams then powered through her final service game, punching away a forehand volley on match point and falling back on to the Centre Court turf.
She can become greatest ever —King
Six-time Wimbledon champion, Billie Jean King has said Serena Williams has what it takes to become the world’s greatest tennis player if she desires it.
“The difference was the serve, because their groundstrokes they matched up so well.
“It is the most beautiful serve ever. I remember seeing Serena when she was probably 11 or 12 and her technique was beautiful and she is such a terrific athlete.
“Serena hates losing and I think that is what makes her so great. If Serena can keep her motivation and stay healthy I think she can be the greatest ever. I think she is and will be, but she needs to do it,” King stated.
Lindsay Davenport, 1999 Wimbledon champion said: “This has been the goal since Serena left the tournament 12 months ago, to get to 22 and seven Wimbledon titles.
“She has been a woman on a mission for two weeks. She had one iffy match against [Christina] McHale and that was it.”
Also, John McEnroe, three-time Wimbledon champion said: “I do think it is highly likely that will happen [Williams overtaking Court], she has tremendous will and desire. If you want to be the greatest of the great, that is the way you have to play.
“I don’t see anyone on the horizon that will mean she doesn’t get at least a couple more quickly.”
HER GRAND SLAM RECORD
French Open: (2002, 2013, 2015)
Wimbledon : (2002, 2003, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2015, 2016)
US Open : (1999, 2002, 2008, 2012, 2013, 2014)