A remarkable tournament that has just kept on giving, the question everyone is asking is: what could it possibly have left? In Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber, the hope is “plenty”.
Two former world number ones, both desperate for another grand slam title, pitted against one another for the first time since meeting here in the final in 2016 – an enthralling contest Serena won 7-5, 6-3. Both have earned their way here with some absolutely commanding tennis, and yet now something has to give.
Sit tight, ladies and gentlemen, and read on for our preview of the 2018 Wimbledon Women’s Singles Final.
A title that has meaningfulness that goes well beyond the trophy for both women, Kerber and Serena will have both completed a “comeback” in their own way. For Kerber, it would represent a remarkable return to prominence after her dismal 2017 season, which saw her go from world no. 1 and holder of two major titles to out of the top 20, with nothing better than two fourth-rounds to her name. Never more than a peripheral figure prior to that magical 2016 season, the history books would’ve confined her to little more than a flash-in-the-pan, a win here makes her legacy far greater.
Considering Serena is already indisputably one-of (if not the best) women’s player of all time, this final holds particularly significant meaning for Serena, and not just because it would draw her level with Margaret Court’s overall record of 24 grand slam singles titles. A win here would mark her first major victory since the combined challenges of giving birth and the related health scare she endured in September last year. No one could have faulted the 36-year-old if she’d never regained her pre-pregnancy heights, or even retired, and yet here she is standing on the precipice of doing exactly that.
Having enjoyed a routine win over Julia Goerges in her semifinal, Serena comes into this final largely looking like her old self. If there’s any knock against her, it’s that her overall path has been devoid of notable names, and there was that small matter of the set dropped to Camila Giorgi…
If only by comparison, Kerber has faced a murderer’s row. To get here she’s had to overcome Naomi Osaka, Belinda Bencic, Daria Kasatkina and Jelena Ostapenko, and yet incredibly, the only set she’s dropped so far this tournament was against 17-year-old Claire Liu, all the way back in the second round.
A rivalry Serena leads 6-2, comes into this one a strong favourite, especially considering the result of their last meeting. Of course, their second-most recent encounter was the ’16 Australian Open final, which Kerber won 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, so it’s not like she doesn’t know how to beat the American on the biggest stage – but can she do it again?
Certainly against Ostapenko she got some practice going against a bigger hitter, but unlike the young Latvian, Serena is unlikely to fold mentally, and that means the onus is on Kerber to do much more than just brick-wall her opponent if she’s to win here. Serena is too strong off both wings when set, so the key will be to keep her off balance as much as possible – drop shots, slice, the occasional junk ball to break up the rhythm, and then combine it with as much opportunistic aggression as a counter-puncher can get, particularly in attacking Serena’s open-stance backhand with a “battering ram” of forehands.
Anything less than that, and Serena will take control. The longer Kerber stays on the defensive – in both individual points and the match as a whole – the more dire the situation will become. Can a defensive-minded Kerber do enough to frustrate Serena? Absolutely, but it’s equally likely not to last.
Serena in three. Representing a significant step-up on Serena’s opponents so far, Kerber will pose a serious conundrum for the American, who will struggle to find her footing early amidst all the alterations in direction and tempo. Still, this is Serena Williams we’re talking about, and in the end, her relentlessness will take its toll, handing her an eighth Wimbledon, and twenty-fourth grand slam title.