Big favorite Serena Williams just couldn’t finish the job at the Australian Open Saturday night. The 6-time champion had never lost in the final and had won five of six meetings with Angelique Kerber but the German was too strong in the end stunning the World No. 1 64, 36, 64 to win her first career Grand Slam title.
Serena suffered her first career loss in a Slam final that went three sets and it snapped an 8-match winning streak in Slam finals. The 34-year-old also stays stuck at 21 career Slams, still one behind Kerber’s countrywoman Steffi Graf.
After the loss, Serena spoke to the press and continued her praise for the 28-year-old Kerber.
Q. What a match.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, it was a really good, really intense match. I thought it was really exciting. Even being out there in the moment was pretty cool.
Q. You looked almost as happy as she did.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Really (smiling)? I should get into acting.
No, I was actually really happy for her. She’s been around a really long time. We’ve had a number of matches. I’ve beaten her a lot.
She played so well today. She had an attitude that I think a lot of people can learn from: just to always stay positive and to never give up.
I was really inspired by that. So, honestly, she’s a really good girl. If I couldn’t win, I’m happy she did.
Q. She’s been talking about the move to improve her serve and get more aggressive. What did you think was the key for her to execute against you tonight?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I think she definitely improved a little bit. It’s always tricky playing a lefty, too, because it’s just different spins, you know, different shots that you just kind of have to get used to.
Q. Did you get a sense at any stage in the match that it wasn’t really working for you today, you were going to have to grind it out?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Obviously, yeah. I was missing a lot off the ground, coming to the net. She kept hitting some great shots actually every time I came in. I think I kept picking the wrong shots coming into it.
But, honestly, it’s something to learn from, just to try to get better.
Q. Let’s talk about the sixth game in the third set, the long game. What happened there? It was like the breakpoint of the match.
SERENA WILLIAMS: She had some great dropshots, twice. You know, they were great. They were just unexpected because she hadn’t hit any until the third set. So that’s it.
I definitely could have got them. I’m really fast. But I just wasn’t able to read that one in time.
Q. There were some times where your shot selection against any other player, they would have missed it, but Kerber can run everything down. The one time you ran her ragged did you actually think, Finally?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I don’t think I thought that in the moment. I think I was more or less like, Next point; get this point.
But, yeah, she’s able to get a lot of balls back. Again, I missed a lot off the ground, yeah.
Q. How would you rate your own effort tonight, your own game?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I think I did the best I could today. You know, would I give myself an A? No. But today this is what I could produce today.
Maybe tomorrow I could produce something different. But that’s all I can go off.
Q. You had the loss in New York and now the result here. Do you think you’ll go out and be eager and still have fire to really have a fabulous year?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I hope so. You know, I don’t think that would be something that I wouldn’t want to do.
Q. Does the fact that it was a great final help you sort of swallow the fact that you lost?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I mean, it’s interesting. I mean, every time I walk in this room, everyone expects me to win every single match, every single day of my life. As much as I would like to be a robot, I’m not. I try to.
But, you know, 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.
Q. You just talked about the expectations. Did that have something to do with it, being nervous, being so close to Steffi Graf’s record? Were you at all nervous in the match?
SERENA WILLIAMS: No, I wasn’t. I was nervous before the match. Once it got started, it was so intense from the beginning till the end that I didn’t really have time to be nervous.
No, I didn’t think about the record at all. I think more or less I thought just about winning this match. It wasn’t necessarily the record for me.
Q. At the end of your speech you didn’t say, See you next year.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Did I not (smiling)? Oops.
You know what? I’ve never been the best at giving my thank you speeches. I always forget someone or something clearly, so…
Q. But you expect to be back next year?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Of course, yeah.
Q. Is it almost more motivating to have a challenge in the final like that, to know the season ahead is going to be challenging and keep you motivated?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, for sure. I think it’s good to know that if I want to win some tournaments, I have to play better.
Q. How difficult is it to control your emotions because you’re so passionate on the tennis court?
SERENA WILLIAMS: In terms of?
Q. You’re very, very passionate when you’re on the court. You’re trying to control that side of it. Sometimes if you’re a little bit too passionate, maybe the shots might not be working for you.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, it’s not very difficult anymore. I’ve been pretty calm this whole week, these whole two weeks. But I feel like, you know, I also was intense when I needed to be intense.
I think this fortnight I’ve been able to find that happy medium.
Q. Are you feeling mentally refreshed after such a tough year last year? Have you sort of reset and feeling better this year?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I guess so. I don’t quite understand. Oh, so you haven’t been in here my past six or seven press conferences.
But, yes, I feel quite refreshed.
Q. Angelique talked about on certain points getting goosebumps because of just the quality of the match. Did you have that sensation at all at any point, maybe during the 19-stroke rally?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I do sometimes, but not tonight.
Q. You were complimentary about Angelique, saying she beat you in 2012, that when she is on her game she is a great player. What have you noticed about her now? What has she particularly improved?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I think her movement is something that is really good for her. It really works well. And her mental game, obviously. She really stays in there for every single point.
Q. Is that what you mean when you talk about her attitude, that ability not to let any point go?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, she fights for everything. She doesn’t really give you a lot, so you kind of have to go out there and take everything you get.
Q. Pretty deserved No. 2 in the world now?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I think so. I mean, she’s had a great month. She got to the finals in Brisbane. She won here. So, yeah. I was surprised and really happy for her. I’m like, Whoa, No. 2.
What’s after 2 is 1, so I guess I better be careful (laughter).
Q. What are your plans for the Olympics and doubles with your sister for the next months?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Obviously I hope to play the Olympics in doubles and singles. We’ll see what happens. That’s my main goal, believe it or not, is playing there in doubles because I just have so much fun and we’ve done pretty well there.
We haven’t been able to play a lot of doubles recently. I think we’ll play somewhere sometimes and we’ll bring it hopefully.
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