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22 for Serena


RENALDO O. GILKES

22 for Serena

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LONDON – 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 tennis crown on Saturday.

Top seed Williams was forced to play some of her best tennis by resolute Kerber in an engrossing Centre Court duel in which 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.

Williams, who racked up grand slam number 21 against Muguruza at last year’s Wimbledon, also stumbled at the 2015 U.S. Open, losing to Roberta Vinci in the semi-finals when a calendar year Grand Slam and Graf’s record loomed.

But this time Williams would not be denied.

To her great credit fourth seed Kerber used her skilful shot placement and scrambling ability to stay in contention throughout a fascinating match of contrasting styles.

But with the Williams serve at its destructive best there was only so much punishment the 28-year-old Kerber could absorb on a breezy Centre Court.

The end came quickly when the German 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 collapsing to the turf.

“It’s been incredibly difficult not to think about it (Graf’s record),” a smiling Williams, cheered on by celebrity couple Beyonce and Jay Z as well as sister Venus in her support box, 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 an appreciative crowd who were treated to a one hour 21 minute final full of absorbing rallies.

Kerber warmly embraced Williams once the emotional American rose to her feet — saying later she had been beaten by a “great champion and a great person.

“Serena was serving unbelievable today. She really played an unbelievable match,” Kerber who will rise to second in the WTA rankings on Monday, said. (Reuters)

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