Angelique Kerber of Germany upset top-seeded Serena Williams, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, in the Australian Open women’s final on Saturday. With the victory at Rod Laver Arena, Kerber prevented Williams from moving into a tie with Kerber’s countrywoman Steffi Graf as the Open-era leader in major singles titles with 22. Kerber, a 28-year-old in her 14th year as a pro, was appearing in her first major final. It was the second major in a row in which a first-time Grand Slam finalist won the women’s single title, with Flavia Pennetta having prevailed at the United States Open in September. Williams, 34, who was seeking her seventh Australian Open title, arrived at the final having lost only 26 games in her first six matches at this year’s tournament. She is historically one of the sport’s best closers, with a record of 21-5 in major finals. Her only prior losses in Grand Slam singles finals were to her sister Venus at the United States Open in 2001 and Wimbledon in 2008, to Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon in 2004, and to Samantha Stosur at the United States Open in 2011. All those defeats were in straight sets. Kerber, a first-round loser at this tournament last year, went on to win four titles in 2015. But she did not advance past the third round in any of the majors. She credited a straight-sets loss to Lucie Safarova at the WTA Finals in Singapore for releasing the pressure valve that had blocked her from playing her best in the big events. “That changed a lot in myself,” the seventh-seeded Kerber said on the eve of Saturday’s final, “because I was telling me after this that I will never let the pressure again win.” She added: “After that, I came to the tournament, and I played from match to match better. I think everything came together good.” Kerber also credited Graf, her idol and mentor, with an assist. She spent a few days last year hitting with Graf in Las Vegas, where Graf lives with her husband, Andre Agassi, and their two children. After the sessions, Graf told Kerber that she possessed all the physical tools to beat the top players. “She taught me actually that I’m on a good way and try to believe in myself,” said Kerber, who went out Saturday against Williams and turned everyone into believers. NYT
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