No denying Serena this time as she equals Graf's record

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Grand slam No. 22 and still counting as Serena equals Graf

LONDON, July 9 (Reuters) - It was third time lucky for American Serena Williams as she finally matched Steffi Graf's professional era record of 22 grand slam singles titles by beating Angelique Kerber to claim a seventh Wimbledon crown on Saturday.

Top seed Williams was forced to play some of her best tennis by resolute Kerber in an engrossing Centre Court duel and her formidable firepower proved decisive in a 7-5 6-3 over her German opponent.

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Kerber had stopped Williams in the Australian Open final to win her first grand slam title and last month Spain's Garbine Muguruza also kept the 34-year-old waiting to equal Graf's mark when she beat her in the French Open final.

But this time Williams would not be denied.

To her great credit fourth seed Kerber stayed in contention throughout a fascinating match of contrasting styles, but with the Williams serve at its destructive best there was only so much punishment she could absorb on a blustery court.

See more Serena's big win:

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Serena Williams wins Wimbledon
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Serena Williams wins Wimbledon
Britain Tennis - Wimbledon - All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, Wimbledon, England - 7/9/16 USA's Serena Williams celebrates winning her womens singles final match against Germany's Angelique Kerber with the trophy REUTERS/Toby Melville
Britain Tennis - Wimbledon - All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, Wimbledon, England - 7/9/16 USA's Serena Williams and Germany's Angelique Kerber hold their respective winner and runner up trophies after Serena Williams won their womens singles final match REUTERS/Toby Melville
Britain Tennis - Wimbledon - All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, Wimbledon, England - 7/9/16 USA's Serena Williams and Germany's Angelique Kerber hold their respective winner and runner up trophies after Serena Williams won their womens singles final match REUTERS/Toby Melville
Britain Tennis - Wimbledon - All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, Wimbledon, England - 7/9/16 USA's Serena Williams and Germany's Angelique Kerber hold their respective winner and runner up trophies after Serena Williams won their womens singles final match REUTERS/Toby Melville
Britain Tennis - Wimbledon - All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, Wimbledon, England - 7/9/16 USA's Serena Williams celebrates winning her womens singles final match against Germany's Angelique Kerber with the trophy REUTERS/Andrew Couldridge
Britain Tennis - Wimbledon - All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, Wimbledon, England - 7/9/16 USA's Serena Williams with Germany's Angelique Kerber after winning their womens singles final match REUTERS/Andrew Couldridge
Britain Tennis - Wimbledon - All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, Wimbledon, England - 7/9/16 USA's Serena Williams celebrates winning her womens singles final match against Germany's Angelique Kerber REUTERS/Andrew Couldridge
Britain Tennis - Wimbledon - All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, Wimbledon, England - 7/9/16 Germany's Angelique Kerber in action againstUSA's Serena Williams in the womens singles final REUTERS/Toby Melville
Britain Tennis - Wimbledon - All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, Wimbledon, England - 7/9/16 USA's Serena Williams celebrates winning her womens singles final match against Germany's Angelique Kerber with the trophy REUTERS/Andrew Couldridge
Britain Tennis - Wimbledon - All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, Wimbledon, England - 7/9/16 USA's Serena Williams celebrates during her womens singles final match against Germany's Angelique Kerber REUTERS/Toby Melville
Britain Tennis - Wimbledon - All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, Wimbledon, England - 7/9/16 USA's Serena Williams celebrates winning the first set in the womens singles final match against Germany's Angelique Kerber REUTERS/Andrew Couldridge
Britain Tennis - Wimbledon - All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, Wimbledon, England - 7/9/16 USA's Serena Williams reacts during her womens singles final match against Germany's Angelique Kerber REUTERS/Andrew Couldridge
Britain Tennis - Wimbledon - All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, Wimbledon, England - 7/9/16 USA's Serena Williams in action against Germany's Angelique Kerber during the womens singles final REUTERS/Andrew Couldridge
Britain Tennis - Wimbledon - All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, Wimbledon, England - 7/9/16 Singer Beyonce with her husband musician Jay Z with USA's Serena Williams' family and friends on centre court during the womens singles final REUTERS/Adam Davy/Pool
Britain Tennis - Wimbledon - All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, Wimbledon, England - 7/9/16 USA's Serena Williams in action against Germany's Angelique Kerber during the womens singles final REUTERS/Toby Melville
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The end came quickly when Kerber was broken for the second time in the match in the seventh game of the second set and Williams roared to the title with a love game, sealing victory with a simple volley before joyfully collapsing to the turf.

"It's been incredibly difficult not to think about it (Graf's record)," a smiling Serena said on court as she clutched the Venus Rosewater Dish.

"I had a couple of tries this year but lost to two great opponents, one of them being Angelique. But it makes the victory even sweeter to know how hard I worked for it.

"Thanks you guys for being out here to see number 22, this is awesome," she said to the crowd who were treated to a one hour 21 minute final full of absorbing rallies.

Williams won 38 of 43 points on her first serve and faced only one break point, at 3-3 in the second set, which she saved with one of the 13 booming aces she delivered.

See how famous faces reacted to Serena's big win:

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Social media reactions to Serena Williams' Wimbledon win
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Social media reactions to Serena Williams' Wimbledon win
@serenawilliams feels like the hope of our nation is a very troubling week. We love you Serena #WimbledonFinals https://t.co/tuQFhgZp9f
#Serena 🙏🏾 I bow down. And am simultaneously uplifted.
Way to go @serenawilliams - you are a true champion. Proud of you!
This image speaks VOLUMES! 🗣 Proud to call you my friend @serenawilliams Thank you for inspiring all of us!!! Your … https://t.co/LZsiUmH5ff
YES @serenawilliams !! 🙌🏽❤🎾️ well deserved #Wimbledon xjadex
Man I'm crying. @serenawilliams just put a small bandaid on my heart! Thank you!!!! Thank you my beautiful friend!
So happy for and proud of the greatest American athlete of all time @SerenaWilliams!! #22SinglesTitles
"There are days that I don't feel like training, but there is no day that I feel like losing." -Serena Williams
"I feel that energy & prayers...It encourages me to do better, fight harder" @serenawilliams on black folks' stake in her wins. @glamourmag
I am so happy right now!!! Congrats @serenawilliams !!! WE WON WIMBLEDON!!! Lol. The ball boys… https://t.co/DZwr94mw9r
@serenawilliams v @AngeliqueKerber @Wimbledon Serena = champion! Incredible effort. You're a class act. #22
Hell yeah @serenawilliams! https://t.co/qCMGumzodk
SERENA!!!!! YES!!!! a spectacular match! Congratulations @serenawilliams !‼️‼️‼️‼️
BOOM! What a champion. Congrats @serenawilliams #wimbledon https://t.co/rXfVeEGSIe
Congrats to my girl @serenawilliams on making history!!!!! Truly the GOAT! Thank you for inspiring he world! 🏆🏆🏆🎾🎾🎾
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GREATEST WEAPON

"It's the single greatest weapon in the history of the women's game, followed closely by her will to win," was three-times men's champion John McEnroe's succinct summing up of what keeps world number one Williams in a league of her own.

Kerber had not dropped a set in reaching the final and scuppered hopes of a first all-Williams grand slam final since 2009 when comprehensively beating Venus in the semis.

With a memorable win against Serena in Melbourne, the German walked on court full of belief -- winning the opening point of the final with a cleanly struck forehand.

Williams had three break points in the second game but could not convert any of them.

She bristled with intensity and was bent double, pumping both fists, when winning a long rally at 3-3 as Kerber made her first inroads against the American's serve.

Having coped admirably with the heavy artillery heading her way, Kerber's downfall when serving at 5-6 in the first set was self-inflicted as two poor errors opened the door for Williams to take the opener.

Kerber stuck to her guns in the second set and managed to earn a break point at 3-3 but Williams responded with consecutive aces to deflate the German.

Williams ended up in a heap on the floor in the next game after a close-quarters exchange at the net, but picked herself up to break for a 5-3 lead as Kerber finally crumbled.

Her trusty serve then did the rest as she also joined Graf on seven Wimbledon singles titles.

Related: See Serena and Venus Williams through the years:

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Venus vs. Serena Williams through the years
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Venus vs. Serena Williams through the years
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 06: Serena Williams of the United States serves in her Ladies' Singles Fourth Round match against Venus Williams of the United States during day seven of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 6, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 06: Venus Williams of the United States plays a forehand in her Ladies' Singles Fourth Round match against Serena Williams of the United States during day seven of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 6, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 06: Serena Williams of the United States serves in her Ladies' Singles Fourth Round match against Venus Williams of the United States during day seven of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 6, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 06: Serena Williams of the United States hugs Venus Williams of the United States after their Ladies' Singles Fourth Round match during day seven of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 6, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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