A twist on Planet Ser­ena with a lit­tle con­sis­tency ... But ‘fearless’ Ker­ber has dis­cov­ered a new be­lief about her­self

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

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

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