MELBOURNE, Australia — Angelique Kerber upset Serena Williams 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 to win the Australian Open title on Saturday, ending the six-time champion’s unbeaten streak in finals here and winning a major title for the first time.
Williams was an overwhelming favorite at Melbourne Park, where she had won all six previous times she’d reached the final, and was trying to equal Steffi Graf’s Open-era record of 22 Grand Slam singles titles.
For the second time in as many majors, though, she fell short. Williams won the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon titles last year before losing to Roberta Vinci in the U.S. Open semifinals. She was so close to a calendar-year Grand Slam in 2015, but now has no chance to push for that honor in 2016 after losing the first major of the year.
The 34-year-old Williams hadn’t lost a set in the first six rounds at Melbourne Park until dropping the first against No. 7-seeded Kerber, who was playing in her first major final.
Kerber had ever beaten Williams only once, in 2012, in six career meetings, and was coming off a shaky start to the tournament when she had to save a match point in her first-round win over Misaki Doi.
Kerber had cried as she walked over to her support team, then back to the center of the court with one arm raised.
At the ceremony, she was all smiles again.
"You are really an inspiration for so many people, so many young tennis players," Kerber said, paying tribute to Williams in her victory speech. "You created history, you are a champion, you are a really an unbelievably great person, so congratulations for everything you did already."
Kerber’s previous best performances at a major were semifinal exits at the U.S. Open in 2011 and Wimbledon in 2012. She had only reached the quarterfinals once in the 13 majors leading into 2016.
"My whole life I was working really hard and now I’m here and I can say I’m a Grand Slam champion," she said. "It sounds really crazy and unbelievable."