By Britwatch Tennis

  • Serena Williams [1] v Angelique Kerber [7]
  • H2H: leads 5-1
  • Williams aiming for 22nd Slam Title and 7th Australian Open title
  • Kerber is in her first Grand Slam final

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – It all comes down to this as Serena Williams will face Angelique Kerber in Saturday’s final as she bids to equal Steffi Graf’s Slam record of 22 titles.

After all the hype last year regarding whether Williams could top her ‘Serena-Slam 2.0’ with her first Career Slam resulted in perhaps one of the most surprising, but no less entertaining US Open women’s finals in 2015, it is time to hit the reset button and see what 2016 brings.

Williams did not play another short after losing to Roberta Vinci in the US Open semi-finals, and did not look altogether convincing as a title prospect either at the end of last year with the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) or at the Hopman Cup.

So after a false start to the year, her progression to the final has been one of ease, no sets dropped and looking progressively more in title winning move, while the other side of the draw was in disarray almost from the word ‘Go’.

Second seed Simona Halep crashed out in the first round, a Brit made it all the way to the semi-final, and perhaps one of the less noticeable Germans, but certainly one of the nicest made it through the carnage to the final.

Kerber startled many who had seen her rise from outside the Top 100 to US Open in 2011 that saw her as a consistent performer in the Top 10. But at times her mental fragility stopped her from really making the impact she probably deserved, and many felt that after losing to Lucie Safarova in the 2015 WTA Finals in Singapore, she lacked that stability to make it on the grander stage – she only had to win one set and not even the match to make the final and afterwards proclaimed that the pressure had been too great.

But here, her path has been anything but simple. She was struggling in her opening round in Brisbane, she faced match points in her first round match here, and somehow has weathered those storms to become the first German woman since Sabine Lisicki (Wimbledon, 2013) to reach a Grand Slam final.

What about those nerves though? Speaking in her pre-final press conference, she spoke about how Singapore was her turning point.

She said: “The Safarova match in Singapore, that changed also a lot in myself, because I was telling me after this that I will never let the pressure again wins against me. had a lot of challenges here also in this tournament where I was really nervous. I was thinking about this match and what’s happened there. I was telling, okay, take this challenge and try to take the experience from Singapore and change it. So that was the change also for my mentality and my nerves, what I have actually before every match.

“I think that was the best start I had of the year. I reached the finals in Brisbane. I played very good tennis there. Then I played here good matches. Of course, the first one was very close, tough, with a lot of nerves in the match. I had the match point down. But after that I came to the tournament and I played from match to match better. I think everything [came] together good, so right now I’m in the finals. Yeah, I’m happy. I have a lot of confidence.”

Williams was perhaps a little more downbeat in her press conference. She is, of course, expected to win, and to do so comfortably if her whitewash in her first set of Agnieszka Radwanska was anything to go by. And few could forget a similar style drubbing meted out to Kerber’s fellow countrywoman Lisicki by Marion Bartoli in the Wimbledon final.

But Kerber at least looks and sounds like she is ready and more importantly comfortable in herself to go out and fight, joking that she wants to protect Graf’s record, for Germany. It will be a tough ask for Kerber, there is no doubt about it, and Williams recalled her one loss to the German in her pre-final press conference:

“I thought she played unbelievable in that match. That’s something that I’ll never forget. I just remember her serving really well, her moving well, her being determined to win that. I think from then on out I’ve been really focused that she’s someone that I really, you know, and everyone, has to take very serious.”

Williams and Kerber will play the singles final at 7:30pm (8:30am GMT).









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