By Howard Fenrich, AP Tennis Writer

Angelique Kerber was not about to be overwhelmed by the setting or the stakes in this Wimbledon final. She knew exactly what to expect — and what to do — against Serena Williams.

Two years after losing to Williams with a title on the line at Centre Court, Kerber came through. So steady, so patient, so accurate throughout, she never really gave Williams much of a chance this time, putting together a 6-3, 6-3 victory July 14 for her first championship at the All England Club and third major overall.

Serena Williams of the US waves to the crowd after being defeated by Angelique Kerber of Germany in the women’s singles final match at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, in London, July 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)

“I think it’s the experience. You have to go through all the things — the good things, the bad things — and then you need to learn,” said Kerber, the first German to win Wimbledon since Steffi Graf in 1996.

“I know that against Serena, I have to play my best tennis, especially in the important moments,” said Kerber, who won the Australian Open and U.S. Open in 2016, but was the runner-up to Williams at Wimbledon that season, “especially in the important moments.”

That’s just what she did.

“Angelique played really well,” Williams said. “She played out of her mind.”

Kerber made only five unforced errors the entire match, 19 fewer than Williams. Perhaps more impressive was this: She broke Williams in 4 of 9 service games. In doing so, Kerber prevented Williams from claiming an eighth title at Wimbledon and 24th from all Grand Slam tournaments, which would have equaled Margaret Court’s record. As things stand, Williams holds the mark for the half-century of professional tennis, one ahead of Kerber’s idol, Graf.

Williams gave birth only 10½ months ago, then was treated for blood clots. She wore special compression leggings as a precaution during Wimbledon, just the fourth tournament of her comeback.

After all the time away, Williams spoke about being impressed with herself for just reaching the final. She also wanted to win, of course.

“To all the moms out there, I was playing for you today — and I tried,” said the 36-year-old American, her voice shaking during the trophy ceremony.

Kerber addressed Williams during the on-court interviews, saying: “You’re such an inspiration for everybody, for all of us. I’m sure you will have your next Grand Slam title soon. I’m really, really sure.”

The final started more than two hours late, because they had to wait for the end of Novak Djokovic’s five-set victory over Rafael Nadal in a men’s semifinal that was suspended the night before. On July 15, Djokovic will play Kevin Anderson, who won his semifinal against John Isner 26-24 in the fifth set Friday night.

Despite so much Grand Slam success, despite holding a 6-2 career edge against Kerber entering the day, Williams played tightly right from the outset.

After taking the opening two points, she made four miscues in a row to get broken. That was part of a run in which she dropped 8 of 9 points. Williams was mostly her own undoing, too: She was responsible for the final’s initial six unforced errors. By the time the first set was over, the disparity was 14-3.

That’s not going to work against an opponent of Kerber’s quality. Trying to sneak a ball by Kerber is something akin to trying to put one past a brick wall. There are no holes.

Kerber celebrated match point by covering her face and collapsing flat on her back, getting grass stains on her white outfit. She relished the moment she had dreamt about as a little kid, watching Graf on TV.

“Winning here, it’s forever,” Kerber said. “Nobody can take the title away from me now.”

Howard Fendrich

AP Tennis Writer