Angelique Kerber shocked Serena Williams on Saturday to capture the 2016 Australian Open title with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 victory. It's the German veteran's first career Grand Slam championship and it comes against the top-ranked player in the world.
Williams had steamrolled through the first six rounds of the tournament without dropping a set. She struggled to find a consistent rhythm against the crafty lefty, however. Kerber took full advantage to make the season's first major a memorable one.
Let's check out the scoreline from the women's final at Melbourne Park. That's followed by a recap of the action and a look ahead toward the men's championship match on Sunday.
Women's Final Result
|Round||Winning Player||Losing Player||Score|
|Final||(7) Angelique Kerber||(1) Serena Williams||6-4, 3-6, 6-4|
Day 13 Singles Recap
If there's one thing that's become apparent over the past two majors, it's that the players who trouble Williams most at this stage of her career are not her fellow power hitters. They are opponents with guile, like Kerber and Roberta Vinci, who can force her to hit more shots thanks to strong defense.
The margin for error when playing the 21-time Grand Slam winner is extremely thin. Even a player like Kerber, the No. 7 seed in the event, can't afford many mistakes if they want to pull off the upset.
She responded with a rock-solid performance in the final. The champion finished with highly efficient totals of 25 winners and just 13 unforced errors. On the flip side, Williams had 47 winners and seven aces, but also racked up 46 unforced errors and six double faults.
Howard Bryant of ESPN The Magazine credited Kerber for rising to the occasion in her first major final:
For all the players who reach a Final and the moment is too big, their play is unrepresentative (Lisicki, Wim 2013), Kerber kept it together— Howard Bryant (@hbryant42) January 30, 2016
Her play was particularly impressive in the third set as she tallied 12 winners and only three unforced errors to grab the lead and eventually close out against the best player in the world.
The Australian Open highlighted her celebration:
What a celebration! Angelique Kerber is the Australian Open 2016 Champion https://t.co/lgXAYxCmgG— Australian Open (@AustralianOpen) January 30, 2016
Afterward, Williams provided some important perspective. There are times when she makes winning matches look so easy, including at points during this tournament, but ultimately it's hard to sustain such a high level all the time.
SI Tennis passed along her reaction to the loss.
"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."
ESPN Stats and Info relayed a piece of information that showcased both the unlikely nature of Kerber's first major triumph and Williams' staying power:
Angelique Kerber: 1st woman to win 1st career Grand Slam title vs No. 1 seed since Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon in 2004 vs Serena Williams.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 30, 2016
Martina Navratilova, an 18-time major singles champion, sent along a message of congratulations to the newest member of the major-title club:
I said before the match Kerber would have to play the match of her life to win- she did. Wow- congrats!And Serena- what a gracious champion!— Martina Navratilova (@Martina) January 30, 2016
Chris Fowler of ESPN believes the result can provide hope and encouragement for other longtime players still waiting for their moment in the spotlight:
Congrats Angie #Kerber for long awaited breakthrough. If she can conquer her inner demons/negativity to create powerful belief- anyone can!— Chris Fowler (@cbfowler) January 30, 2016
Whether Kerber can maintain this level of success throughout the season is a mystery, and probably unlikely given her prior career results in majors. But now she can call herself a major champion and beating a tennis legend like Williams just makes it even sweeter.
Who's your pick in the men's championship match?
The women's final certainly sets a high bar for the men's championship match on Sunday.
No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic will take on No. 2 seed Andy Murray for the fourth time in the Aussie Open title match. Djokovic has won each of the previous three.
Furthermore, it's been a pretty one-sided rivalry since Murray edged the Serbian superstar to win the 2013 Wimbledon crown, as Sky Sports News illustrated:
The biggest key for Murray is a strong start. Roger Federer didn't play his best tennis in the early going against Djokovic in the semifinals and he found himself down two sets in the blink of the eye. It's basically like facing Williams in terms of the small margin for error.
If Murray can get a foothold in the match early, then it could develop into an extended, grind-it-out battle that lasts deep into the fifth set. In the end, one of the top two players in the world will join Kerber by starting the 2016 Grand Slam season on the highest note possible.
All match stats courtesy of the tournament's official site.