After clinching her 22nd Grand Slam title at Wimbledon, Serena Williams fell backwards onto the Centre Court grass, the weight of pressure and a long year of disappointment finally off her shoulders.
Williams captured her seventh Wimbledon championship on Saturday, tying Steffi Graf’s Open Era record of 22 major singles titles with a 7-5, 6-3 victory over Angelique Kerber.
In a rematch of this year’s Australian Open final, which Kerber won in three sets, Williams mitigated the unforced errors that sank her chances in Melbourne and overwhelmed the German with an impressive display of power. Williams, 34, smashed 13 aces and 39 winners on Saturday, lifting the world’s top–ranked player to her second straight title at the All England Club.
Williams’s quest for her 22nd major title has been longer than most expected after Williams won No. 21 at Wimbledon last year. She was the overwhelming favorite to win the 2015 U.S. Open, but she fell in the semifinals to unseeded Roberta Vinci. At this year’s Australian Open, Kerber upset Williams in the final, and a few months later she lost to Garbine Muguruza in the French Open final, marking the first time Williams had lost consecutive major finals.
“It makes the victory even sweeter to know how hard I worked for it,” Williams said after Saturday’s match.
While Williams’s serve was indomitable, Kerber also served well after a shaky performance in the semifinal against Venus. Kerber, the tournament’s No. 4 seed, didn’t allow Williams a break until the 12th game of the first set.
The match featured a number of long rallies, often characterized by Williams using her arsenal of ground strokes to run Kerber around the baseline. But while Williams’s power was often too much to handle, Kerber played effective defense and won several key rallies.
“I love playing her. She's such a great opponent,” Williams said. “She brings out the best tennis out of me.”
Williams, who has a chance to win a doubles title later on Saturday with her sister Venus, enters the U.S. Open with a chance to surpass Graf’s record.