Wimbledon 2016

Serena to emulate 'fearless' Kerber

Top seed Serena Williams will equal Steffi Graf's Open era record of 22 Grand Slam titles if she triumphs today in the Wimbledon women's singles final against Germany's Angelique Kerber, who defeated her sister Venus in the semi-final.
Top seed Serena Williams (photo) will equal Steffi Graf's Open era record of 22 Grand Slam titles if she triumphs today in the Wimbledon women's singles final against Germany's Angelique Kerber, who defeated her sister Venus in the semi-final.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
Top seed Serena Williams will equal Steffi Graf's Open era record of 22 Grand Slam titles if she triumphs today in the Wimbledon women's singles final against Germany's Angelique Kerber, who defeated her sister Venus in the semi-final.
Top seed Serena Williams will equal Steffi Graf's Open era record of 22 Grand Slam titles if she triumphs today in the Wimbledon women's singles final against Germany's Angelique Kerber (photo), who defeated her sister Venus in the semi-final.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

Defending champion aiming to avenge shock loss to German in the Australian Open final

LONDON • Serena Williams has history in her sights as the defending champion plots to avenge one of the most painful defeats of her career by beating Angelique Kerber in today's Wimbledon final.

Tennis' world No. 1 suffered a stunning three-set loss to Kerber in the Australian Open final in January and the rivals will face off for the first time since Melbourne as they slug it out for the Wimbledon title.

There was further frustration for Williams when she lost the French Open final to Garbine Muguruza last month.

But the 34-year-old has been revitalised at the All England Club and, after taking slightly more than 48 minutes to crush Elena Vesnina in Wimbledon's quickest ever semi-final, she has the chance to finally equal Steffi Graf's Open era record of 22 Grand Slam titles by lifting the Venus Rosewater Dish for a seventh time.

Making history at Kerber's expense would be especially sweet, as the fourth seed defeated Williams' sister Venus in the semi-finals, and the American says she has learnt the lessons of Australia.

"Obviously it's significant that she beat me in Australia because that's the last time we played," Williams said. "I made a lot of errors. She made little to no unforced errors. I felt like she played great. She was fearless.

  • 61

    Number of aces by Serena Williams at Wimbledon this year. Angelique Kerber has only 11.

    75

    Unforced errors made by Angelique Kerber in the tournament so far. Serena Williams has made 112.

"That's something I learn. When I go into a final, I, too, need to be fearless like she was. It was inspiring afterwards to realise there's a lot of things that I need to improve on."

Since failing to complete a calender Grand Slam last year, Williams has repeatedly had her hunger for more success questioned.

But, having reached a ninth Wimbledon final and her 28th in Grand Slams, she insists that she is still motivated.

"Yeah, I have no hunger any more. Yeah, right," she said defiantly at the press conference after her demolition of Vesnina. "I mean, I think for anyone else in this whole planet, reaching the final would be a wonderful accomplishment. For me, it's not enough. But I think that's what makes me different."

In a combative mood with the media, she was also quick to quash suggestions the pressure of trying to make history had been responsible for her failure to win a Grand Slam since last year's Wimbledon.

"My goal has never been 22. I don't talk about that any more," she snapped. "I love what I do. I work hard at what I do. I'm extremely passionate. That's just kind of something that keeps me going."

Fortunately for fans hoping for a drama-filled final, Kerber is not the type to back down in the face of Williams' aggression.

The 28-year-old, in her first Wimbledon final and second Grand Slam title match, could not be in better form as she tries to become the first German woman to win Wimbledon since her idol Graf in 1996.

"I told myself that I would like to play better in the big tournaments. I just believe much more in myself, especially after Australia," Kerber said. "I'm a little bit more relaxed when I'm going to the tournaments. I know I can trust my tennis."

After sweeping to the final, Kerber is now guaranteed to reach a career-high No. 2 in the world rankings next week.

"I will go out there with a lot of confidence. I will go out there like in Australia, trying to show her I'm here to win the match," said the German, who has yet to drop a set at Wimbledon this year.

"I'm feeling good about my movement on grass courts, I can serve a little bit better. This makes me much more dangerous than on hard surfaces."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 09, 2016, with the headline 'Serena to emulate 'fearless' Kerber'. Print Edition | Subscribe