MELBOURNE: A tearful Angelique Kerber stunned an errant Serena Williams to win the Australian Open on Saturday and thwart the American top seed’s bid to equal Steffi Graf’s Open-era record of 22 Grand Slam titles.
In a huge upset, the seventh seed toppled the 34-year-old 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 to win her maiden major title and become the first German Grand Slam champion since Graf at the 1999 French Open.
Williams, the world number one and defending champion, had won all six previous Melbourne Park finals she had played and had also triumphed in her last eight Grand Slam deciders.
But Kerber, inspired by a good luck message from Graf, knew all the pressure was on her opponent and she mercilessly exploited her weaknesses in a thriller at Rod Laver Arena.
“My whole life I was working really hard and now I’m here and I can say I’m a Grand Slam champion, so it sounds really crazy,” she said, choking back tears.
“The best two weeks of my life and career. I had goose bumps here on the centre court when I was playing.”
Her win sparked celebrations in Germany, with a host of stars offering congratulations including Manchester United’s Bastian Schweinsteiger and Formula One driver Nico Rosberg.
“Many congratulations! It was time. Steffi Graf’s era was a good few years ago,” said International Olympic Committe president Thomas Bach, who is also German.
The left-hander, whose win will see her move up from world number six to two, has had an emphasis on consistency in Melbourne, patiently building control of the point as rallies develop.
It worked well with the 28-year-old, who had never beaten a world number one before, dropping just one set en route to the final, in the opening round to Miskai Doi when she saved a match point.
Williams had been in imperious form all tournament, but too many errors cost her dearly against an opponent she had beaten five times before and lost only once.
“I was actually really happy for her. She’s been around a really long time,” said Williams.
“Maybe tomorrow I could produce something different. But that’s all I can go off.”
The imposing American was the overwhelming favourite, having won three of the four Grand Slam titles last year, but said she was only human.
“I mean, every time I walk in this (press conference) room, everyone expects me to win every single match, every single day of my life,” she told her post-match press conference.