Sublime Serena proves she is still a cut above


Serena Williams lay sprawled upon the hallowed Wimbledon turf as the weight of expectation lifted from her shoulders after she won a pulsating final against Angelique Kerber to claim a record-equalling 22nd grand slam title.

The world number one had grown weary of being asked about matching Steffi Graf's Open Era mark of major singles crowns after failing to add to her incredible haul of slam wins since her triumph at the All England Club last year.

Williams was beaten by Kerber in the Australian Open final back in January and the historic moment did not arrive Paris, where Garbine Muguruza stunned the iconic American in the French Open final last month.

The 34-year-old was not to be denied on a humid Saturday afternoon at SW19, though, proving she is still a cut above in the women's game by seeing off debutant Wimbledon finalist Kerber 7-5 6-3 to retain her title with a brutal Centre Court assault.

Kerber could have offered no more as she rolled with the punches, but was unable to contain the power of the top seed, who now has seven Wimbledon titles to her name.

Williams said she was more calm and at peace than in the previous three fruitless majors, but there was nothing placid about the storm she served up to blow the athletic Kerber away in straight sets.

Arguably the greatest female tennis player ever to grace the game raised two fingers on each hand to signify the feat of winning an elusive 22nd major and looked to the skies as she lay on the turf after serving out the match with ruthless efficiency.

The legendary veteran belted down 13 aces, but it was not just her trusty powerful serve that proved to be Kerber's downfall.

Questions had been asked about Williams' motivation, having achieved so much, but she was fired up throughout the tournament and produced one last onslaught to lift the Venus Rosewater Dish yet again.

Left-hander Kerber was striving to become the first German woman since Graf 20 years ago to win Wimbledon, but there was to be no repeat of her sensational triumph in Melbourne.

The two applauded each other during a gripping, high-quality showdown which had a packed crowd on the edge of their seats throughout and embraced at the net at the end of the match in mutual appreciation of their talents.

Williams had strolled onto one of the great sporting theatres wearing headphones, but it was the appreciation of those who had witnessed something special that was ringing in her ears following her latest master class.

A tense hush fell before the two rivals rose from their seats to do battle as if the they knew they were about to be treated to a classic and they were not disappointed.

Kerber showed incredible character to go toe-to-toe with Williams, who subjected her to a brutal blitz, winding up her fierce serve with great effect and coming up with winner after winner.

The underdog drew a roar of appreciation after an exquisite backhand drop-shot in the opening set and continued to support her pre-match claim that she is playing the best tennis of her career at the age of 28.

Williams' persistence paid off, though, when Kerber netted to go a set down, prompting the defending champion to pump her fists as though she had settled the contest.

Kerber produced the shot of the match when she whipped a majestic backhand winner just inside the baseline in the fourth game of a tense second set, drawing evident appreciation from her opponent.

Williams was on her knees following another brilliant rally which was won by Kerber, leading those in both players' boxes to rise to their feet in approval.

But you cannot keep a champion like Williams down and a second break gave her the opportunity to serve for the match, which she grasped with both hands to ensure she was gripping the famous trophy once again.

All the talk now shifts to when she will match Margaret Court's all-time record of 24 grand slam titles, but her immediate attention was making a return to Centre Court to play in the women's doubles final with older sister Venus later in the day.