By: Raz Mirza
Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber spoke of her pride after pulling off a shock victory against Serena Williams to win her first major title.
Kerber defied the odds to win 6-4 3-6 6-4 on Rod Laver Arena and prevent Williams from clinching a record-equalling 22nd grand slam crown.
The German, who will rise to world number two after the tournament, had not reached a major semi-final since 2012 and had never before been past the fourth round in Melbourne.
She produced a superb performance, however, when it really mattered, ousting Williams to seal one of the biggest upsets in tennis history.
“The feeling I have I think it’s more proud, proud about my team, my family, my friends,” Kerber said.
“They are always believing in me. I’m not the easiest person sometimes. I had also like a few downs where I was not so believing in myself.
“All my families and friends, they believe always in me. They told me, ‘Okay, let’s go to work and you will do it some day’. That’s true what they said actually at the end.
“I’m just happy. I have so many emotions it’s like crazy.”
Kerber said she had “one leg on the plane home” when she went match point down against Misaki Doi in the opening round but she came back from the brink and now, seven victories later, is the Australian Open champion.
“I think after the first round I was like, ‘Okay, now I have nothing to lose anymore’. I was playing actually from round to round better,” Kerber said.
“For sure I get the second chance here I think in this tournament. I was able to take it.
“I was able to take my second chance and to go for it, to play good matches in these two weeks and win at the end the Australian Open.”
Kerber played some brilliant counter-attacking tennis but her opponent was also well below her best.
Williams hit 46 unforced errors – more than double her second highest tally in the tournament – and was broken five times.
The American, however, was gracious in defeat, walking round the net to embrace Kerber after the final point had been won.
“I think Serena’s really a champion. She told me after that she’s really happy for me and that I really deserved it,” Kerber said.
Her win, however, prevents Williams from levelling the women’s Open-era record for grand slam titles won, which still belongs to Steffi Graf, Kerber’s compatriot and mentor.
Graf has kept in regular contact with Kerber since they hit together last year and the seventh seed admits she was pleased to do her childhood idol a favour.
“I think I helped Steffi right now,” Kerber said with a smile.
“Steffi is a champion. She won 22 Grand Slams. That’s my first one. I’m really happy about my game I played, about the two weeks. The hard work pays off.”
The result also marks a another shock defeat for Williams, who saw her hopes of a calendar grand slam ended at the US Open last year when she lost in the semi-final to Roberta Vinci.
“It’s interesting. Every time I walk in this room, everyone expects me to win every single match, every single day of my life,” Williams said.
“As much as I would like to be a robot, I’m not. I try to be. But I do the best that I can.
“I try to win every single time I step out there, every single point, but realistically I can’t do it. Maybe someone else can, but I wasn’t able to do it.”