By Ros Satar, at Wimbledon

  • Angelique Kerber [11] v Serena Williams [25]
  • H2H: Williams leads 6-2
WIMBLEDON, UK – History awaits Serena Williams who could tie Margaret Court’s record of Grand Slam Singles titles, but Angelique Kerber could walk in the footsteps of her heroine Steffi Graf.

 

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Two yours ago, having tasted defeat at the hands of Angelique Kerber in the Australian Open, Serena Williams claimed her 22nd Slam title denying the German her first Wimbledon title. Now they face each other once more.

Angelique Kerber’s path to the Wimbledon final

Angelique Kerber in the third round of Wimbledon 2018

Angelique Kerber in the third round of Wimbledon 2018 | Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

  • R1: Vera Zvonareva [Q] 7-5 6-3
  • R2: Claire Liu [Q] 3-6 6-2 6-4
  • R3: Naomi Osaka [18] 6-2 6-4
  • R4: Belinda Bencic 6-3 7-6(5)
  • QF: Daria Kasatkina [14] 6-3 7-5
  • SF: Jelena Ostapenko [12] 6-3 6-3

Gone is the stressed Kerber of 2017, where the weight of expectation seemed to grind her down, and we seem to be back at the 2016 version – focused, confident and more importantly consistent.

She started the year with impressive tennis at the more fun surroundings of the Hopman Cup before winning the Sydney title, and treating everyone to an epic semi-final with Simona Halep which really should have been the stuff of finals. She even made the quarter-finals of Roland Garros on a surface she will cheerfully contend is not her best.

She was tested in just the second round by qualifier Claire Liu, dropping her only set of the tournament so far, but as she has met the more established seeds, she seems to have gone from strength to strength. Where last year she struggled against Daria Kasatkina, she eased her way past the young and dynamic Russian, before pretty much demolishing 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in the semi-final.

She believes she is ready to raise her game to add a third Slam to her collection, looking to be the first German since Steffi Graf to lift the title.

She said: “I see a champion, that’s for sure. I mean, Serena is one of the best players in the world. I mean, we had so many great matches in the last years. To seeing her back, it’s great. Yeah, I know that she is always pushing you to the limits to play your best tennis. This is the only chance to beat her.

“She’s coming back. For me also, I’m coming back from 2017. I think, yeah, it will be a new match. I know that I have to play my best, best tennis to beat her, especially on the grass, on the Centre Court, where she won so many titles here.”

 

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Serena Williams’ path to the Wimbledon final

Serena Williams in the first round of Wimbledon 2018

Serena Williams in the first round of Wimbledon 2018 | Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

  • R1: Arantxa Rus 7-5 6-3
  • R2: Viktoriya Tomova [Q] 6-1 6-4
  • R3: Kristina Mladenovic 7-5 7-6(2)
  • R4: Evgeniya Rodina [Q] 6-2 6-3
  • QF: Camila Giorgi 3-6 6-3 6-4
  • SF: Julia Goerges [13] 6-2 6-4

Williams, who was awarded a controversial seeding this year on her return from having her daughter, continues to improve match on match as she reaches the final in just her fourth tournament back. Even she felt that at times, her progress at Wimbledon was surprising even herself.

She said, after her quarter-final: “I think everything right now is a little bit of a surprise. To be here, to be in the semi-finals. I mean, I always say I plan on it, I would like to be there, have these goals. But when it actually happens, it still is, like, Wow, this is really happening.”

Ominously though, Williams has been getting her service arm back in – she started hitting serves over 120 mph and is closing in on a little slice of history as she would equal Margaret Court’s long-standing record of 24 Grand Slam titles.

That being said – she has her eye on a good many more, as she explained:

“I put so much pressure on myself when I was trying to get to 18, then the rest, it was so much. But as I said in the past couple years, I don’t want to limit myself. I think that’s what I was doing in the past, I was limiting myself.

“It’s just a number. I want to get as many as I can, starting with — I still have a match to win, so I’m not even there yet.”

That being said, it seems impossible to believe that less than a year ago she had given birth to her daughter and struggled with life-threatening complications after the birth.

 

Who will win the Wimbledon 2018 Ladies Singles title?

 

Angelique Kerber [11] v Serena Williams [25] | H2H: Williams leads 6-2

For years having been known as a dogged counter-puncher, Kerber has worked hard to be more aggressive in her game. She was rewarded with a stand-out year in 2016, reaching three Slam finals and winning two Slams and claiming the World No. 1 title at the end of the year, but the downward spiral of 2017 left her looking stressed and losing easily in matches she should have coasted through.

A change in her team has renewed her self-confidence, and we are seeing some marked improvements – where once her serve was just a means for starting the point, she was using it to really good effect against Ostapenko who had no answer for her in the semi-final.

Further to that she was able to switch from aggressive play to defence and acted as a wall – and for the first time was not afraid of her go-to counter-punching style. Her fitness means she has the legs to outlast Williams and all the signs are looking good for Kerber to return to Slam winning ways.

However, Williams is the queen of playing herself into form – she has shown this throughout the tournament, staying strangely calm after dropping a set to Camila Giorgi, and more ominously that serving arm is back to its full strength.

Kerber will need to grab that first set, and if she can force this to a three-setter, she will most likely outlast Williams. We have seen Williams falter when a huge record is on the line and although she has her eye on this one it might just be a stretch for her to go the whole distance on just a fourth tournament back.

Take absolutely nothing away from Williams – she has once again shown why she is the greatest tennis player of all time – her resilience several times over in the face of monumental medical odds and her longevity need answer to no-one, and if Kerber wants this win, there is no doubt in her mind she will have to play the tennis of her life one more time.

Prediction: Kerber in three sets.

 

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