With a dominating performance Saturday, Serena Williams claimed the 22nd Grand Slam title of her career, matching Steffi Graf’s record and achieving a goal that taunted her for nearly a year.
Williams beat Germany’s Angelique Kerber, 7-5, 6-3, to win the women’s singles at Wimbledon for a seventh time, putting the finishing touches on a tournament in which she lost just one set.
After she punched the clinching volley to a spot unreachable by Kerber, Williams tossed up her racket, raised her arms and allowed herself to tumble back onto the grass, lying there for several moments in a mixture of exhaustion and elation. The elusive 22nd Grand Slam win came on the heels of Williams’ losing in the finals of the U.S., Australian and French opens – getting oh so close, only to come up with warning-track power at the biggest moments.
“My goal is to win at least a Slam a year,” she said. “It was getting down to the pressure.”
By lying on Centre Court and basking in the applause, Williams wasn’t just celebrating winning Wimbledon, but at long last equaling the record Graf held for the past 17 years. Williams is 22-6 in Grand Slam finals, meaning half of those losses came in the past year.
“Definitely so excited to win Wimbledon. That’s always a great feeling,” said Williams, who has won seven such singles titles and this time will receive $2.5 million in prize money. “But maybe even more so is the excitement of getting 22, you know, trying so hard to get there, finally being able to match history, which is pretty awesome.”
Next up is Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam victories, although those were won before the Open Era, which began in 1968.
But Williams said she isn’t focused on Court’s mark, or the nine Wimbledon singles titles of Martina Navratilova.
“Oh, God, no,” Williams said when asked whether she’s now fixated on getting to 25 Grand Slam wins. “One thing I learned about the last year is to enjoy the moment. I’m definitely going to enjoy this. You know, I have the Olympics coming up. I’ll take one at a time.”
There’s no question she was best on the court Saturday, avenging her loss to Kerber in the Australian Open final in January. The two players talk about each other with the utmost respect — they’re clearly friends — but that loss obviously gnawed at Williams. In the Wimbledon interview room, Kerber said she played as well as she could, but there was no beating Williams on this day.
At one point in the second set, Kerber had a break point, and Williams answered with consecutive aces, clocked at 117 and 124 mph. She had 12 aces to Kerber’s one and said it was important her serve was working so well because the gusty conditions made ground strokes less predictable.
“This is how Serena is playing,” Kerber said. “I had one break point, and I could do nothing. I was trying to be tough, to be in the match, to fight until the last point.
“She did everything right.”
Many people had hoped the singles final would be an all-Williams affair, but Serena’s older sister, Venus, was eliminated by Kerber in the semifinals. Later Saturday, Venus and Serena played in the women’s doubles finals.
For her singles final, Williams had a star-studded cheering section. Among those sitting in her family area were singer Beyonce and her husband, Jay Z. Sitting in the royal box were Ellen DeGeneres and wife Portia de Rossi, and retired players Martina Hingis, Tracy Austin, Billie Jean King and Navratilova.
“I really felt at home with the crowd, with just being there,” Williams said. “I just felt really comfortable.”
Considering her record, she should. Williams is 86-10 in singles matches at Wimbledon, with more victories than every women’s player but Chris Evert (96-15) and Navratilova (120-14).
“I’ve been given such a great opportunity,” Williams said. “I’ve been given so much talent. I’ve been in a position where I can inspire ladies and men as well. Anyone, any kid out there that wants to be something, has dreams.
“I’ve had great dreams. I didn’t come from any money or anything, but I did have a dream, and I did have hope. That’s really all you need.”