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Angelique Kerber defeats Serena Williams at Australian Open

By Tom Allnutt

Serena Williams' hopes of clinching a record-equalling 22nd grand slam title were dashed as Germany's Angelique Kerber pulled off a stunning victory to win the Australian Open.

Kerber was defending the Open-era best tally of her compatriot Steffi Graf and she did it playing the match of her life, beating Williams 6-4 3-6 6-4 to claim her first major title.

Completing victory after two hours and eight minutes, Kerber lay outstretched in disbelief on Rod Laver Arena, having sealed one of the biggest shocks in tennis history.

Williams regained some composure at the start of the second set and Kerber gave her the encouragement she needed, as two double faults gifted the American a break and 3-1 lead.

Many times Williams has stumbled into a third set before motoring to victory but Kerber halted her opponent's momentum immediately with a hold and early break.

The crowning moment came when the American failed to put the ball away and as Kerber drove a half-volley pass into the gap, the crowd rose to their feet and the German pointed her finger up to the sky.

It was the sort of point many matches would turn on but Williams is an exceptional case and she recovered immediately to break back and level at 2-2.

Kerber held and then a mammoth 11-minute game ensued at 3-2 which began with Williams taking a hit on the shoulder as the ball kicked up off the net and ended up even more damaging as the German seized the break.

She played two superb drop-shots to save game points and then converted a fifth break point of her own when a Williams backhand flew long.

Kerber held but so did Williams, leaving it to the German to serve for the title at 5-3. She failed to do so as a backhand drifted out and now it was Williams serving under pressure as she trailed 5-4.

At deuce, Williams put a forehand into the net giving Kerber Championship point and she converted as a backhand flew long, prompting the German to drop to floor in stunned celebration.

The German was still defending brilliantly, with her latest addition to the highlights reel a forehand pass, unleashed while apparently in mid-air.

Williams, however, though far from perfect, was finding her groove and she served out with relative ease to take the set 6-3 and force a decider.

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