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LONDON – Angelique Kerber scrapped and scrambled and pushed Serena Williams to the limit.
The German hustled from corner to corner for great gets, crouched low for squat shots, and mixed off-speed slices with searing flat winners.
In the end, Kerber's stellar counter-punching defense was not enough to defuse the power game and booming serves of Williams, who prevailed 7-5, 6-3 in the Wimbledon final on Saturday.
Kerber beat Williams in three sets in the Australian Open final in January for her first Grand Slam title. But, this time, there was no stopping Williams from equaling Steffi Graf's Open-era record of 22 major championships.
"I think I played what I could today," the fourth-seeded Kerber said. "Serena was serving unbelievable today. At the end I was trying everything, but she deserved it today. I was not the one who lost the match. I think she won the match."
The left-handed Kerber had not dropped a set on the way to her second Grand Slam final of the year and beat Serena's sister, five-time champion Venus, in the semifinals. The 28-year-old Kerber was bidding to become the first player to beat the sisters back-to-back in the semifinals and final at a Grand Slam.
But Serena had too much firepower: She served 13 aces, to none for Kerber. The German had only nine unforced errors, to go with 12 winners. But Williams piled up 39 winners, along with 21 unforced errors.
"Today just her serve was much better," Kerber said. "On grass the serve is also a little bit strange because it's tougher to return it. That was the only thing which changed from Australia."
Kerber came out fighting from the start, trading hard groundstrokes with Williams, mixing up her play and holding serve. But a brief lapse in the 12th game proved costly. Serving at 6-5 down, 15-all, Kerber made a forehand error followed by a backhand error to suddenly give Williams two break and set points.
Kerber saved the first with an easy forehand, but Williams converted on the next with a cross-court backhand winner to take the first set.
"I think I was still playing not bad," Kerber said. "I think Serena was returning better there. She was just going for it. I played two points a little bit too short, and she was there, and she goes for it. She did everything right.'"
Kerber didn't fold. She picked up her game in the second set, pumping her arms to celebrate winners as the Centre Court crowd tried to will her back into the match.
Kerber finally earned a break point — her only one of the match — at 3-3. At 30-40, Williams turned to her biggest weapon: She hit a 117 mph ace to save the break point, followed with a 124 mph ace and held for 4-3.
"This is how Serena is playing," Kerber said. "I had one breakpoint, and I couldn't do (anything)."
In the next game, Kerber went up 40-15 but Williams began attacking and forced a break point. Kerber hit perhaps her worst shot of the match — a backhand long — to concede the break. Williams served out the match at love.
"Of course, I'm disappointed," Kerber said. "But at the end I'm also proud about that what I did. That makes it a little easier for me."
Kerber will move up to No. 2 in the rankings next week behind Williams, who has been No. 1 since February 2013.
"I think it's tough to follow in her footsteps," Kerber said. "I'm going my own way. I think I'm on a good way to play better and better. I hope that I will reach a few more finals and maybe win a few more Grand Slams."
Follow Stephen Wilson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/stevewilsonap. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/stephen-wilson