Angelique Kerber is savouring her “crazy” ride to Australian Open glory after gatecrashing Serena Williams’ party to become the first German grand slam champion since the great Steffi Graf.
Kerber stunned the sporting world with a dramatic and fearless 6-4 3-6 6-4 triumph over the all-conquering world No.1 in a thrilling championship climax on Saturday night.
The three-set boilover was not only Williams’ first defeat in seven title matches at Melbourne Park, but also denied the American a place alongside Graf as the most successful women’s player in almost half a century of professional tennis.
Kerber is only the fourth player to conquer Williams in a grand slam final, joining the American’s older sister Venus, Russian Maria Sharapova and Australia’s 2011 US Open champion Samantha Stosur.
The 28-year-old is also just the second woman in the open era to secure the title after saving match point in the first round.
“I had really crazy two weeks,” Kerber said.
“I had one leg on the plane to Germany and now I’m here. I get the second chance and I take my chance.
“To win it, it’s my dream come true. My whole life, I’ve been working really hard and I can say I’m a grand slam champion. It’s crazy.
“The best two weeks of my life, of my career, was here. I had goosebumps on the centre court when I was playing.”
As Kerber celebrated her magical breakthrough, Williams was left to lament another opportunity lost after succumbing to suffocating pressure for the second straight slam.
A shock US Open semi-final loser to Roberta Vinci with a calendar-year grand slam within sight in New York, Williams again stumbled trying to match Graf’s open-era record 22 singles majors.
Williams did her best to commit tennis suicide, making a staggering 46 unforced errors as Kerber dominated with awesome power and precision.
Mixing incredible forehand passes with deft backhand dropshot winners, Kerber soared to the biggest win of her career in two hours and eight tension-filled minutes at Rod Laver Arena.
A first-round loser last year, Kerber again stood on the brink of defeat in her tournament opener against Misaki Doi, but didn’t look back, also taking out two-time champion and former world No.1 Victoria Azarenka en route to glory.
Apart from ending Germany’s 17-year major title drought since Graf’s 1999 Wimbledon triumph, Kerber will climb to a career-high No.2 in the rankings on Monday and also bank a cheque for $3.85 million.
“Really, it’s a special moment for me,” Kerber said.
“I knew before that I beat her once in Cincinnati, that I really must go out there to try to beat her again because she will not give it to me.
“It was a really great match.”
Kerber appeared to have missed her moment when Williams locked the final at a set apiece.
Ominously, the world No.1 was eight from eight in deciding sets of grand slam finals.
Undeterred, the underdog retained her cool to break Williams to love and surge to a 2-0 lead with a flurry of explosive forehand winners.
The top seed fought back to 2-2 before Kerber reeled off three straight games to have the American on the brink.
Kerber faltered trying to serve out the match at 5-4, but finally prevailed as Williams dropped serve for a fifth time trying to stay in the contest.
“My phone is exploding right now,” the elated champion said.
“I don’t know how many messages I get. It’s like amazing.”