All that stood between the #7 tennis player in the world exiting in the opening round of the Australian Open to an unranked opponent was a single point. Angelique Kerber was down to match point against Misaki Doi in the second set, until she found her form, roared back, and took the second and third sets.
Somehow Kerber went from nearly losing to a relatively anonymous player to beating one of the best tennis players of all time and sewing up her first Grand Slam win in two short weeks. She also took down Victoria Azarenka in straight sets. Tournament play is unpredictable like that.
Williams probably expected to win. She’s taken the last four matches against Kerber in straight sets. Today, however, she had 46 unforced errors and clearly wasn’t herself all match. More critically, Williams’ world-class serve was not working and she only put six aces past Kerber. After the match, she addressed the expectation that she win every time out:
“Every time I walk in this room, everyone expects me to win every single match, every single day of my life,” Williams said. “As much as I would like to be a robot, I’m not. I try to. But, you know, I do the best that I can.
Kerber, for her part, was nearly as surprised as Williams:
“I was with one leg in the plane for Germany,” she said of nearly going out in the first round. “I take my chance to be here in the final and play against Serena. My dream come true tonight, on this night. My whole life I was working so hard and now I can say that I’m a Grand Slam champion… it sounds so crazy.
Kerber had a chance to end the match on her serve, but she dropped the game. As you can see up top, she broke Williams, coaxing her into missing the backline on the final point before she dropped to the court in disbelief. Kerber will probably rise up to #2 in the rankings, and Serena will have to wait until the French Open to get a shot at matching Steffi Graf’s record 22 Grand Slam wins.
Update: Here’s some clarification from Courtney Nguyen. Our headline refers to Kerber’s, “one leg in the plane for Germany,” quote.