Kerber Stuns Nervous Serena Williams for Australian Open Title
by Staff | January 30th, 2016, 9:38 am
  • 22 Comments

German Angie Kerber played some of her best tennis in her first Grand Slam final, but for Serena Williams it was just more of a worrisome, ongoing story as another error-strewn performance saw another Slam title slip from her grasp on Saturday in Melbourne.


Williams for a second straight Slam after a 2015 US Open semifinal exit saw her game fall apart in a 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 loss to the Slam final neophyte Kerber at the 2016 Australian Open.

The end of the match was not pretty for either player. In the final set Kerber failed to serve out the match at 5-3, then in the next game threw in a handful of errors after leading 30-0 on Serena’s serve. But Kerber would get additional help from the Williams error machine when the American failed to convert a game point that would have evened it at 5-5, then two points later made a volley error on match point.

“I was going out there and not thinking too much that it’s a Grand Slam final,” Kerber said of her mental approach. “I was going out there, trying, ‘OK I can beat her; I beat her once.’ And just believe in myself. If you’re just hoping, you can’t win against her. That was my game plan: serving good, moving good and just going for it. It works.”

It works in part now due to the world No. 1s consistent nervy collapses in big Grand Slam matches. Going for too much on serve, Williams barely served over 50 percent first serves, including six double faults to only seven aces. Winning only 42 percent of her second serve points, she committed an overall whopping 46 unforced errors, averaging more than two a game in the opening-set loss.

Not a great volleyer nor possessing a great transition game, Williams perhaps due to her errors off the ground decided to frequently attack the net, many times with hit-and-hope approach shots.

“I was missing a lot off the ground, coming to the net,” Williams said. “She kept hitting some great shots actually every time I came in. I think I kept picking the wrong shots coming into it.”

Kerber gave other players some food for thought when playing against Serena, in the third set mixing in some successful drop shots.

“She had some great dropshots, twice,” Williams said. “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.”

Nerves, said Williams, did not play a part during the match.

“I was nervous before the match,” she said. “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 [Grand Slam] record at all. I think more or less I thought just about winning this match. It wasn’t necessarily the record for me.”

ESPN analyst Mary Joe Fernandez had a different view.

“We’ve seen it before when Serena gets nervous,” she said. “She loses her footwork and then tries to muscle her way through it. Then, she ends up lunging and out of position. You can see it when she starts hitting her groundstrokes long.”

Kerber, who will move up to No. 2 in the world, is the second German woman in the Open Era to win a major after Steffi Graf, who won 22 majors to Serena’s 21.

“First of all, I would like to say congratulations to Serena,” the German said on court. “You’re really an inspiration for so many people and young tennis players. You’ve created history. You’re a champion. You’re also an unbelievably great person. So congratulations to everything you’ve already done….My whole life I was working really hard, and now I’m here, and I can say I’m a Grand Slam champion, and it sounds really crazy.”

Kerber says she has yet to contemplate being a Grand Slam champion, being No. 2 in the world, and having almost an entire year ahead of her to challenge Williams for the No. 1 ranking.

“Right now I’m not thinking about this,” she said. “I try to really enjoy every moment, what’s happened right now, taking all the experience with me. I mean, I think my phone is exploding right now. I don’t know how many messages I get. It’s like amazing…Right now I’m not thinking about the next tournaments, the next challenges. I’m just trying to stay here and enjoy everything.”


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22 Comments for Kerber Stuns Nervous Serena Williams for Australian Open Title

WTF Says:

How do you get nervous after winning 20 slam finals (including this one) and being runner up in several more? She’s played maybe 30 slam finals by now. Shouldn’t it be second nature by now?


AndyMira Says:

@WTF..if only that easy..famous case right now..rafa nadal and endless nervous and lack of confidence..at some stage this great champion will experience doubt and insecurity in their life..this maybe due to traumatic event such as a bad losses[in serena's case]at us open last year..and i think this maybe the case this afternoon..while rafa has had bad experience with injuries that triggered a lack of self belief and one things led to another..and rafa got 14 slam already..but ther’re a great champion..they’ll bounce back one day..


jane Says:

wow, i went to sleep when serena was up 4-1 n the second. for that stretch she was dominant and i assumed she’d cruised to the title. but angelique! wow again. congrats to her. all the pictures look like serena was a great sport about the loss, so kudos to her for that also.


BBB Says:

Serena seems to have trouble when she’s about to hit a big number of majors won. She faltered quite a bit before hitting the Navratilova/Evert mark, and now she’s having trouble getting to Graf’s mark.

I think that explains the nerves.

I’d be curious to hear what someone with technical expertise has to say, but when you look at Serena’s footwork now, compared to when she was younger, she seems almost disorganized today. She gets away with it most of the time, but on days like today, she doesn’t.

But it’s unfair of me not to note that Kerber played extremely thoughtful tennis and fully deserves credit for winning. I always respect players who overcome mental hurdles. Good for her.


Gypsy Gal Says:

Congrats to Angelique,i didnt see the match,but always nice to see a new champion coming into the fray,hope she backs it up and plays well for the rest of the year….


MgMg Says:

So happy for the new grand Slam Champion Kerber. Serena will bounce back. Kerber’s return of server made the difference in the match. When she was playing short in the second set, Williams was hitting winners everywhere. In the third set, Kerber returned very well and kept the ball deep from the back of court which caused Serena to make too many UEs. Those two delicate well executed drop shots and three forehand passing shots in the late third set made Serena lose her calm. I hope Serena will make it 22 this year.


MgMg Says:

Serena was serving harder than Nadal btw.


Humble Rafa Says:

It’s scary to see the big lady offering congratulations, clapping at the ceremony, etc. Clearly, she is not being herself. That’s why she lost.


Humble Rafa Says:

Serena was serving harder than Nadal btw.

No need to compare men’s serves. We are all good servers.


Annie Says:

Congrats to you Angie! You were so focused
taking it point by point…game by game reminds me of RAFAEL’s “in the zone” matches.
It’s easy to see you work out hard…great shoulders…your eyes looked like lasers searing your gaze on the server & the ball. Proud you are now # 2 in the world…all that hard work has paid off! :) Very happy for U.. glad to C U R staying present and enjoying every moment…lots of time to think of future tourneys/matches later.
You go woman!!!


chrisford1 Says:

A great day too for Will Murray and his former wife Judy Murray, who can say, “Our sons. Top rated players, both Grand Slam champs and Davis Cup champs.”

Sometimes we focus so much on the multiple majors winners that we don’t see the pool of “almosts” who are fine players and all around commendable people. So it is delightful when all of a sudden you get a Bartoli, a Pannetta, a Kerber, a Myskina, an Ivanovic, or a wonder that wins unexpectedly, and manages to repeat (Li Na, Kvitova). And the world for a day and more takes in these new winners and for the players that lone or double titles – a win that sometimes changes their career and endorsement fortunes in a huge way.

Less of this is happening on the mens side and when it does, its normally a top 10 player already challenging for the biggest titles. Stan and Delpo were not shocks. Cilic was a superb player people thought would one day maybe challenge and for many years did not…then put it all together one USO.
Gorans are a rare thing. But Jamie Murray is close to a Goran Ivanesivic – did nothing for most his career except be known as Andy’s older brother. Then making 2 straight Grand Slam finals in 2015 after never going past 3rd round in a Slam his whole career save one QF. Then get Davis Cup, joining his brother in being key to the trophy, Britain’s 1st Davis Cup title after 80 years. And starts 2016 with a doubles slam victory, becoming the 1st Brit in 82 years to be part of a Grand Slam doubles title.

Andy will probably lose, but the Murray family can at the least, be delighted Jamie “got his”, and Andy made yet another final at the Najors.


chrisford1 Says:

Men’s doubles was an 82 year wait, that is, for the UK.

And along with everything else, the day her career gave her prestige, millions, with many more millions in endorsements to come, Angelique Kerber shows a dazzling smile and lovely personality.

And Serena surprises by being completely gracious and charming in defeat. Soon, she’s back to Indian Wells with sister Venus coming along for the 1st time since 2001.


andrea Says:

amazing match. so nice to have a final on the women’s side that goes the distance. last year some journalist wrote about kerber as the queen of the mid level tournament – getting to 1/4′s but then stalling out – and i don’t think anyone thought she could tough this out, so doubly impressive.

she hung in on long rallies, crouching down to absorb power and not give up the baseline, and hitting insane angled winners. and those two drop shots were incredible considering the circumstances at 3-4.

granted serena played tight, and yes we could all assume if she had played like she did against everyone else at the AO she would have won, but like the USO semi, she’s obviously got #22 on her mind big time and it’s foiling her.

i love it when a first timer wins a GS!


Gypsy Gal Says:

People say at least this and at least that,not knowing how downright bloody patronizing that really sounds grrrr….


Gypsy Gal Says:

Almost as irritating as the even Murray cliche….


chrisford1 Says:

No Gypsy, it is writing against the mentality that only Slam winners have value as people and great athletes. To sport is bigger than the superstars.

Which is why this has already been a wildly successful Grand Slam for the Murray family, regardless of what happens Sunday.
Who knows? Maybe it could be even more wildly successful.
And if you root for Andy, or at least wish him well…the victory of his brother is on the list of things he probably wished for hard himself. One Slam to Jamie and bare minimum, Andy is in the last two standing in singles, yet again. I would be shocked if that family is not already quite happy with each brothers success in Melbourne.


Gypsy Gal Says:

Well alot of it sounds like a sideways dig,dressed up as a compliment….


funches Says:

The article was too harsh on Kerber’s playing level.

In the third set, she had 12 winners and three unforced errors. I missed the part of the set that was “not pretty” for her.


WTF Says:

Serena was all class after losing there. Is that normal? I used to recall her and her sister coming up with excuses like “I wasn’t playing my best” or “If I played just 1% better, I would have won, definitely”.

What I saw was some graciousness in defeat. But admittedly I haven’t watched her (or any WTA matches) in a long time.

I noticed she does the “Come on!” thing to fire herself up when she wins a point quite frequently. Is this normal too? She breezed past her opponents so easily I never noticed her needing to fire herself up.


BBB Says:

Serena’s been much better about acknowledging the competition in the last five years or so. Sometimes it sounds fake, but you can’t really blame her as she was criticized so much for not giving any credit at all.

Oracene is amazing – she’s really calm, applauds opponents’ points, and projects the idea that there’s more to life than tennis.


chrisford1 Says:

BBB –

*At one time Serena was one of the worst shriekers in the WTA, along with Venus and Sharapova. And over the last 5 years, she is really worked hard to tame that while Venus and Maria are as bad as ever, along with Madame Whoooo!

*At one time, Serena played low IQ ball-bash tennis like Venus and Maria. Over time she moved past that to a much more complete game. And that has been a huge contributing factor to her success.

* At one time the Williams sisters came across as haughty and aloof, along with Sharapova. Lot of excuse making, no real social interactions on court and off, largely staying with the Williams inner circle. Now Serena can have relapses and now and then not give fair credit or be dismissive of lesser players….but very infrequently these days. She socializes, applauds great shots of opponents a la Djokovic, engages fans more. It is tough to modify personality after early adulthood, but Serena seems to want to be seen as a good champion, not just “Queen of Slam counts”.

I credit her coach, her image PR people a bit, maybe the example of Federer and Djokovic influenced matters slightly – but mainly her. She can see the end of her days as a pro in Woman’s singles coming, and wants to leave on good terms with a rep as a fine player, good person, and a woman that keeps maturing and self-improving as an individual, maybe become a fine mother and wife in all that..


MMT Says:

BBB: I think you and Mary Joe Fernandez hit the nail on the head – it’s clear that she was very nervous in the final, and no matter what she says, I’m sure it has something to do with being so close to equalling the all-time major record of Steffi (with due deference to Margaret Court).

So I would point to 3 areas of problems – first her serve abandoned her, and she didn’t get the 1 or 2 free points per game that allows her to load up and hit freely in the rallies. Second, after missing a swinging volley, she began to decelerate the racquet head on that shot (to keep it in) which is exactly wrong, and made more errors. Her conventional volleying technique is already marginal, and she has no clue how to defend the net. Finally, I think she struggled with the left serve. Normally she is able to put a lot of pressure on that serve with the ferocity of her returns, but I don’t think she every picked up the strange dynamic of a lefty serve, which was probably exacerbated by her nerves.

In short, she choked, and when she did, almost every single one of her fundamental flaws crept in. I think the clay will give her more time to load up and hit freely in the rallies and on the return of serve, and as such, while she’ll still be nervous, she will work through it better than on a hard court.

My guess is that #22 comes at Roland Garros.

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