If you talk to someone about this year’s Wimbledon tournament, it's likely the first name mentioned will be Serena Williams. The 36-year-old American tennis champ made it to the final round of the women’s singles portion of the tournament this past weekend, just 10 months after giving birth to her daughter and undergoing surgery to address life-threatening complications. In a heartfelt Twitter post published this morning, Williams celebrated hard-working moms everywhere, and her husband, Alexis Ohanian, also shared a tear-inducing tribute on Instagram about how far his wife has come.
Despite Williams' impressive comeback performance, it was Angelique Kerber who took home the Venus Rosewater Dish trophy as the 2018 Wimbledon women's singles champ this year. The German athlete powered through the tournament to eclipse Williams in the finals on Saturday, July 14, winning both matches 6 to 3. And although Kerber, 30, may not have arrived at the games with as riveting a narrative as Williams, she is a tremendously tough and decorated athlete.
Here, five things to know about the 2018 Wimbledon champ and her impressive resume.
1. Kerber was the first German woman to win at Wimbledon in more than 20 years, and one of only two women to beat Williams twice in a Grand Slam final.
The athlete broke a 22-year drought for the Germans, becoming the first female singles winner from her country since legend Steffi Graff won in 1996, according to ESPN. Kerber is also on the (very short) list of athletes who have defeated Williams twice in a Grand Slam final, joining Williams’ sister Venus Williams, according to ESPN W.
2. This was Kerber’s first ever Wimbledon win, but she’s no stranger to Grand Slam podiums.
Kerber won the 2016 Australian Open, where she previously defeated Williams in the finals, as well as the 2016 U.S. Open, where she bested Czech player Karolína Plíšková in the finals. These wins moved her ranking to No. 1 in women’s singles at the time. Her win at Wimbledon on Saturday marked her third Grand Slam victory, leaving just one Grand Slam tournament—the French Open—off her list of accolades. Winning all four majors—a feat known as the Career Grand Slam—is a major accomplishment that only eight players in the history of women’s singles tennis have achieved. After Saturday’s win, Kerber’s world ranking in women’s singles improved from 10th to 4th, according to the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) rankings.
3. Kerber was very nervous to play Williams. Her strategy going into the finals was “be aggressive.”
“To be honest, I was quite nervous before the match,” Kerber revealed during a post-finals press conference. “I know that against Serena I have to play my best tennis, especially in the important moments, and you know, I was trying just being aggressive and when I have the chance going for it…You never know with her [Serena]; she is always fighting until the last [moment].”
This no-holds-barred strategy worked. Kerber returned an impressive 80 percent of Williams’ serves, compared to less than 60 percent returned by Williams’ other opponents in the tournament, according to The New York Times. Kerber also made only five unforced errors (an error that's not caused by the opponent's good play) in the final match, compared to 24 unforced errors by Williams, according to ESPN.
4. Kerber’s victory comes after an especially challenging year in 2017, which she said ultimately helped lead her to where she is today.
As mentioned, Kerber had a phenomenal year in 2016. But the prowess that propelled her to success didn’t carry through to 2017, as she failed to make it beyond the fourth round of any Grand Slam, dropped out of the top 20 WTA rankings, and parted ways with her longtime coach, according to ESPN W.
When reflecting on these tough setbacks now, Kerber sees them as necessary stepping stones.
"Without 2017, I couldn't win this tournament," Kerber told ESPN W."I learned a lot from last year, with all the expectations, all the things I go through. I learned so many things about myself, about how to deal with this….Also, [it was hard] to find the motivation after 2016, which was amazing. To [have] such a year [again] is impossible. But now I am just trying to [improve] my game, thinking not too much about the results, trying to be a better tennis player, a better person, and I'm trying to enjoy tennis again."
5. She’s a gracious winner and supportive competitor.
After hitting the tournament-winning serve, Kerber collapsed onto the court for several moments, and then in a show of admirable sportswomanship, quickly stood up and walked across the court to hug Williams. In the post-finals press conference, Kerber expressed her happiness over finally achieving a lifetime goal.
“When I was a kid, I was always dreaming of this moment, and to win Wimbledon is something really special in my career,” Kerber said. She also shared sentiments of support for Williams.
“Serena didn’t lose the match,” Kerber said. “I won the match.”