A twist on Planet Serena with a little consistency ... But ‘fearless’ Kerber has discovered a new belief about herself
WHERE Martina Navratilova once faced Chris Evert repeatedly, Steffi Graf kept seeing Monica Seles at least for a while, and Serena Williams once kept having to play Venus Williams, Serena pretty much has faced Planet Earth in this splintered decade.
Planet Earth has thrown athlete after athlete after athlete at her, and she has rebuffed them at a formidable rate. She has won grand slam finals against two Russians, a Belgian, a Belarusian, a Pole, a Dane, a Czech and a Spaniard, and lost them against an Australian, a German and a Spaniard.
Up next, then, will come a twist with a little consistency attached: an in- year final rematch. When Williams opposes Angelique Kerber today in the Wimbledon final, they will become the first women since Amelie Mauresmo and Justine Henin in 2006 to play each other in two different grand slams within the same year.
In a hodgepodge of a decade with so many players bobbing up and down, this counts as a near-semi-rivalry.
It has a good backdrop. When Kerber defeated Williams 6-4 3-6 6-4 in the Australian Open final, it brought the 28-year-old German to a new way of thinking about herself.
Having won a grand slam on her 33rd try, and having reached a second final at the All England Club on her 35th, she said on Thursday: “I know that I can trust my tennis.”
Williams, in turn, need only check the Australian Open stat sheet for how to make tonight in London more ebullient than that Saturday night in Melbourne. Of course, she has done so. While her matches often show a higher number in both winners and unforced errors, this one had an unforced- error gap of 46- 13 against her. In the first set, it was 23-3. In the decisive third set, it was 18-3.
“I made a lot of errors,” said Williams this week. “She made little to no unforced errors. It was still a three-set match. I felt like I could have played better. I felt like she played great.
“She came out swinging, ready to win. She was fearless. ● SERENA WILLIAMS continued her quest to utter domination of women’s tennis – she’ll be taking over the world next – this time alongside sister Venus as they defeated Julia Goerges and Karolina Pliskova 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 to reach the Wimbledon doubles final.
Pliskova and Goerges gave as good as they got against the wall of muscle that the Williams’ create. They broke in the first game and went clear in the second set again.
In fact, the Americans were breaks down in both sets, but it is almost as if they were toying with their opponents, such is their command of the game, or their sheer overpowering resilience. They can increase the pressure when behind, giving the opposition a head start, making it that little bit more interesting.
They fell even further behind in the second set and were 1-4 down at one stage, but won six games in a row, breaking twice to win the match. – Daily Mail That’s something I learned. When I go into a final, I, too, need to be fearless like she was. It was inspiring afterward to realise there’s a lot of things that I need to improve on.”
If, Williams plays similarly to her semi-final of Thursday against No 50- ranked Elena Vesnina, a 29-year-old veteran in her first grand slam semifinal, she will lose neither to Kerber nor to anyone else on this planet or on any other planets. She combined trademark power with dazzling angles, and then after her 6-2 60 win across 48 masterful minutes, the statistics dazzled even more.
She won 28 of 31 points on serve, got 24 of her 31 first serves in, and went 23 for 24 (96%) on those points. “I feel really dominant when I do serve like that,” Williams said. She amassed 53 total points to 21 for Vesnina, who wound up giving a thorough review of some of the best women’s tennis ever played. “I felt like I had no chance today, first of all,” she said.
Then she covered details. In addition to the lofty first-serve percentage: “She was placing it amazingly.” The velocity: “She’s, like, serving 129 miles (per hour) in the corner, it’s really difficult to read, first of all.” The variety: “She’s not only hitting flat balls, she’s using spin, slices sometimes.” Even the reading: “She’s maybe not the best mover, but she’s reading your game.”
Oh, wait, the forehand cross-court returns from the deuce side: “I would say she has one of the best forehand cross-court returns from the deuce side. It’s so fast, you cannot even finish your serve, then the ball’s already passing you with a clear winner.”
In summary, Vesnina did not want to leave out perhaps the utmost component: “Of course, the mental part. I mean, she’s the strongest one with the mentality to playing on the big courts, the big events, finals, semi-finals, grand slams. She’s the best with this.” By the way, she also mentioned Williams being “really good with the low balls”.
By contrast, Kerber’s 6-4 6-4 passage through Venus Williams did manage to take up 72 minutes. It boasted some blasting exchanges of groundstrokes, including the 20-shot match point that ended with the left-handed German deep in the corner sending out a cross-court, forehand passing shot.
As with the Australian Open final, Kerber minimised her unforced errors (11).
She also broke Williams’ serve five times out of 10, four in the first set.
“Just credit her for playing well,” Williams said. “Second final of the year. It shows she’s doing something right.”
Kerber already had spent five years in the top 10. She won four titles last year.
“But I told myself that I would like to play better in the big tournaments,” she said. “I think that’s what changed, I just believe much more in myself, especially after Australia, about my game, about my team and everything what’s around me.”
She’ll carry that belief out against another kind of belief, for a rematch, Kerber seeking a second grand slam title, Williams a 22nd. When a reporter asked Williams on Thursday what she thinks about being deemed one of the greatest female athletes of all time, she said, “I prefer the words ‘one of the greatest athletes of all time.’” – Washington Post
SERENA WILLIAMS: ‘One of the greatest athletes of all time’
ANGELIQUE KERBER: Second final of 2016, so clearly doing something right