Serena story transcends a single Grand Slam after gutting final loss

Angelique Kerber ensured Serena Williams' incredible return to tennis did not culminate in a Wimbledon title, but the American can be proud.

Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber after the Wimbledon final   -  Getty Images

Angelique Kerber may be the one with the Venus Rosewater Dish, but Serena Williams achieved something that transcended a single Grand Slam at Wimbledon this year.

Just 10 months after giving birth - having spent six weeks in a hospital bed amid multiple surgeries due to complications from an emergency C-section - and 14 matches into her comeback, Williams finished as the runner-up in the women's singles at Wimbledon.

A 6-3 6-3 loss to a resurgent Kerber, only the second player after Venus Williams to beat Serena in more than one Grand Slam final, is clearly not the outcome the seven-time Wimbledon champion would have wanted. For now at least, she remains one short of Margaret Court's record haul of 24 grand slam singles titles.

However, simply making the final in such circumstances is something to be immensely proud of.

Williams is an all-time great in every sense.

It is not just her staggering ability that impresses, but also her irrepressible mental strength and hunger to keep on going, even after 13 months away from the WTA Tour, at the age of 36 and with 23 Grand Slams already under her belt.

Novak Djokovic, someone who knows a thing or two about the difficulties in remaining motivated after reaching a zenith in your career, summed it up when Williams made her major return at this year's French Open.

"It's not like she never won a slam and then now she wants to come back because she has something to achieve from that perspective. She has won what, 23? She's the greatest female athlete of all time, probably, and she keeps on coming back and inspiring everyone," said Djokovic, who may have a comeback story of his own to tell this weekend, having reached the final of the men's singles.

Williams had improved with every match since returning to the All England Club for the first time since her 2016 final victory over Kerber, but this was an erratic display that belied her development over the past two weeks - she committed 24 unforced errors to just five from Kerber.

The match always had the potential to be a test of Williams' endurance in rallies, and so it proved.

Taking on Kerber is like taking on a wall, except this wall can return the ball at angles you cannot predict.

The opening game was a clear demonstration of the German's plan: keep points alive and hope to pick out a winner or force an error. It was the latter that saw Williams begin the match with a drop of serve.

The world number 181 (albeit not for long) got herself back on serve, but paid the price for persistent sloppiness at the net. Having surrendered the first set, a moment of indecision cost her a chance to put Kerber away earlier than she did at the start of the second.

A pair of double faults and a long forehand then left the German a break up in the second, and it was an advantage she would not relinquish.

Kerber is now a three-time major winner – glory at Roland Garros the only premier prize evading her – and also provides a tale of a return to previous heights.

After triumphing at the Australian Open and US Open in 2016 and reaching world number one, Kerber endured a dismal 2017 that saw her finish the year without a title, fail to get beyond the fourth round of any Grand Slam and slip to 21 in the world rankings.

It prompted her to split with coach Torben Beltz and appoint Wim Fissette, a move which has helped galvanise her career and make her the first German winner of the women's singles at Wimbledon since the iconic Steffi Graf in 1996.

For Williams, though, this setback will do little to stop her from further cementing her already-established legacy as the best of all time.

In the wake of a gutting defeat, she said: "I look forward to continuing to be out here and do what I do best."

Would anything else be expected?

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