It was third time lucky for American Serena Williams as she finally matched Steffi Graf’s professional era record of 22 grand slam singles titles by beating Angelique Kerber to claim a seventh Wimbledon crown on Saturday.
Top seed Williams was forced to play some of her best tennis by resolute Kerber in an engrossing Centre Court duel and her formidable firepower proved decisive in a 7-5 6-3 over her German opponent.
Kerber had stopped Williams in the Australian Open final to win her first grand slam title and last month Spain’s Garbine Muguruza also kept the 34-year-old waiting to equal Graf’s mark when she beat her in the French Open final. But this time Williams would not be denied.
To her great credit fourth seed Kerber stayed in contention throughout a fascinating match of contrasting styles, but with the Williams serve at its destructive best there was only so much punishment she could absorb on a blustery court.
The end came quickly when Kerber was broken for the second time in the match in the seventh game of the second set and Williams roared to the title with a love game, sealing victory with a simple volley before joyfully collapsing to the turf.
“It’s been incredibly difficult not to think about it (Graf’s record),” a smiling Serena said on court as she clutched the Venus Rosewater Dish.
“I had a couple of tries this year but lost to two great opponents, one of them being Angelique. But it makes the victory even sweeter to know how hard I worked for it.
“Thanks you guys for being out here to see number 22, this is awesome,” she said to the crowd who were treated to a one hour 21 minute final full of absorbing rallies.
Williams won 38 of 43 points on her first serve and faced only one break point, at 3-3 in the second set, which she saved with one of the 13 booming aces she delivered.