"You cannot measure success if you have never failed." So said the seven-time Wimbledon champion Steffi Graf; and 22 years after Graf was the last German to lift the Venus Rosewater Dish here, Angelique Kerber reversed once and for all the slump that has engulfed her since her annus mirabilis of 2016.
In a final where all the pre-match babble was of Serena Williams’ extraordinary return to winning ways 10 months after the birth of her first child, Kerber was on a quest of her own. Two years ago she was runner-up to Serena on this very stage, but now the game’s ultimate grail belongs to Kerber. With her racket a rapier in her hand, she carved her way to a stunning 6-3, 6-3 victory in a mere 65 minutes.
“It’s a dream come true,” said the 30-year-old, shaking her head at what was clearly still an unbelievable truth. Then she turned to the vanquished American. “Serena, you’re a great person, such an inspiration for all of us playing and everyone watching you. I’m sure you will have your next Grand Slam title soon.
"Congratulations for coming back. I knew I had to play my best tennis against a champion like Serena. It’s always an honour to share a court with her. I have enjoyed every second here in the last two weeks. Thank you to my family and friends at home. Without you I wouldn’t be here.”
It’s a mad old world where Williams, with her nominal ranking as the world No.181, goes down in the record books as the lowest-ranked player to reach the Wimbledon final since the game turned professional 50 years ago; and it’s madder still when somehow Kerber, the No.11 seed, comes into the final as the underdog.
The burden of expectation was on Serena, with her 24th Grand Slam title all but written into the record books by some; yet this time, in her 10th Wimbledon final, she never played at her best. Seven days after her daughter Alexis Olympia took her first steps, Williams stumbled on the Centre Court.
Instead it was Kerber who strode into victory’s embrace. Remember, in 2016 she won the Australian and US Opens, climbing all the way to the year-end No.1 spot, but by January this year she had plummeted to No.22.
Throughout 2018 she has been climbing back up, aided by a new coaching partnership with Wim Fissette; and now she has reached a new summit, defying the wondrous trail blazed by Serena Williams as the poster girl for working mothers.
photo Getty Images
Photo: Rémy Gros