Williams was supported by several celebrity friends at Centre Court.
Novak Djokovic overcame a determined Rafael Nadal 6-4 3-6 7-6 (9) 3-6 10-8 in five hours and 15 minutes to reach his fifth Wimbledon final and first since last winning the crown in 2015. But for the majority of this fortnight, most of us missed it.
Stirred by her husband and a flurry of celebrity supporters like Tiger Woods, Lewis Hamilton and Anna Wintour, the 23-time Grand Slam victor forced her way into the match with a sublime volley in the third game of the second set, but again faltered in the very next point.
In an eagerly awaited rematch of the last time they met, it was a very different Angelique Kerber facing Serena Williams in a Wimbledon final.
“I think without 2017 I couldn’t win this tournament”, Kerber said. Make no mistake, we are marvelling at her game these past two weeks because we got a glimpse of a rusty Williams through Indian Wells and Miami in March when she returned.
Kerber grew up watching her role model, Steffi Graf, win Wimbledon on television, including the last of Graf’s seven victories here, which came in 1996. She knew exactly what to expect – and what to do – against Serena Williams. She wore special compression leggings as a precaution during Wimbledon, just the fourth tournament of her comeback.
Williams was controversially seeded 25th, due to her history with the tournament as a multiple champion, and made a strong run without facing a fellow seed until the penultimate round. “She was striking the ball out there today”. He had surgery on his right elbow in February and has looked more like himself during these two weeks.
Perhaps it is her Polish heritage – her grandparents live in Puszczykowo and she owns a place there – that gives Kerber that feeling, that to fully enjoy the highs you must first experience the lows. Get that desire back? “I can be a contender to win Grand Slams”.
“I have heard good things about Somerset and I was impressed by what I saw at Taunton in 2016 (when Pakistan opened their tour of England that year against the county)”.
Within an hour of her defeat, Williams had turned her focus to just that, explaining, “I’m already deciphering what I need to improve on, what I need to do, what I did wrong, why I did it wrong, how I can do better – that whole madness that goes on in my mind”.
“I’m just me, that’s all I can be”.
“I knew I had to play my best tennis against a champion like Serena”, Kerber said. Kerber climbed six spots to No. 4, with Simona Halep holding onto the top ranking despite going out in the third round at the All England Club. But Kerber wasn’t interested in attention. So she was as expert at this formality as she has proven expert in tennis itself over her remarkable career. After Saturday’s performance, Angelique Kerber is a subplot no more.