A magnanimous Serena Williams has embraced Angelique Kerber’s rise to Australian Open champion.
Kerber arrived as a grand slam force on Saturday night with a 6-4 3-6 6-4 triumph over Williams to claim her first major title.
While Williams was surely as shocked as the Rod Laver Arena crowd by the result, the world No.1’s first act after giving up her title defence was to embrace Kerber at the net.
Williams was anything but an ugly loser, smiling as brightly as the German from the presentation dias.
“She had an attitude that I think a lot of people can learn from: just to always stay positive and to never give up,” Williams said.
“I was really inspired by that.
“If I couldn’t win, I’m happy she did.”
On the night, it quickly became apparent that Williams’ radar was off.
Put-aways from the half-court were sprayed wide or long.
Volleys found the net.
It took Williams 56 minutes to serve her first ace.
Perhaps most damning was her 23 first-set unforced error count as she dropped her first set for the tournament.
Williams all but eliminated errors from her game to claim the second set 6-3.
But in the third set, Kerber’s confidence carried the day, with Williams dropping a decisive set in a major final for the first time in her career.
In her returning tournament from a four-month long sabbatical, Williams said she was shocked to make the final.
She said anyone thinking her match would be a lay-down misere needed a reality check.
“Everyone expects me to win every single match, every single day of my life,” she said.
“As much as I would like to be a robot, I’m not.
“Would I give myself an A? No.
“I did the best I could today. Maybe tomorrow I could produce something different.”