Australian Open: Kerber stuns below-par Serena to win first major title
Angelique Kerber defied the odds to win her maiden grand slam after stunning an error-prone Serena Williams in three sets in the Australian Open final.
All eyes were on Williams in the defending champion’s bid for a 22nd major title and a seventh Australian Open crown.
But the below-par Williams tallied 46 unforced errors as slam final debutant and seventh seed Kerber triumphed 6-4 3-6 6-4 on Saturday.
Williams threatened a comeback after rallying from 5-2 down in the third, but Kerber was not to be denied after she watched the former’s volley go long on match point.
The three-set win on Rod Laver Arena saw Kerber become the first German since Steffi Graf in 1999 to claim a major as six-time champion Williams lost her first final at Melbourne Park.
There were no early nerves for Kerber, who found her range immediately against her wayward opponent.
After hitting a stunning cross-court backhand, she broke in the third game before consolidating for a 3-1 lead.
Williams continued to struggle to make shots, racking up an uncharacteristic 11 unforced errors through six games, though she did manage to level proceedings at 3-3 after Kerber dropped serve.
The American then gifted the break straight back to Kerber after smashing a swinging forehand volley long at 30-40.
Even Kerber could not believe what she saw as Williams hit three consecutive unforced errors to allow the German to move ahead 5-3.
Kerber then served out the set to love, aided by back-to-back unforced errors by Williams.
But as she has done so often before, Williams slowly found her way back into the contest in the second set after notching 23 unforced errors in the opener.
Williams broke Kerber in the fourth game and held in the fifth to take a commanding 4-1 lead.
And Williams never relinquished the break as she levelled the match at one set apiece, having limited her unforced errors to just five.
The pair went toe-to-toe in the deciding set, with a sublime forehand down the line helping Kerber break for 2-0, only for Williams to hit back the very next game.
It continued into a marathon sixth game, which featured two double faults from Williams and as many Kerber drop shots in over 11 minutes.
Williams fended off four break points – the first following a 19-shot rally – but she could not save a fifth as Kerber claimed the crucial break before taking a 5-2 lead.
Kerber was then broken in the ninth game as Williams closed to within 5-4, though it proved to be too little too late.