Wimbledon 2018

Wimbledon final: Serena insists she's underdog

Angelique Kerber and Serena Williams are facing off in a repeat of the 2016 Wimbledon final.
Angelique Kerber and Serena Williams are facing off in a repeat of the 2016 Wimbledon final. PHOTOS: EPA-EFE, REUTERS

Kerber in comeback of her own after slump last year, following a pair of Grand Slam wins

LONDON • All the talk since Wimbledon began has been about the return to the Tour of 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams after the American great became a mother last September.

She famously won the 2017 Australian Open while pregnant with daughter Alexis Olympia before going on maternity leave and making a comeback in March this year.

It is remarkable that the 36-year-old has reached her 10th Wimbledon final today, 10 months after life-saving surgery which followed her pregnancy.

"It's crazy. I don't even know how to feel because I literally didn't think I'd do this well in my fourth tournament back," said Williams, who will take on Germany's Angelique Kerber in the final.

"I had a really tough delivery and multiple surgeries and almost didn't make it, to be honest.

"I couldn't even walk to my mailbox, so it's definitely not normal for me to be in a Wimbledon final. I'm just enjoying every moment."

A win today will give her an eighth Wimbledon title and 24th Grand Slam crown, taking her level with Margaret Court's all-time mark. It is a staggering achievement for Williams, who defeated Kerber in the 2016 final before sitting out the 2017 tournament to prepare for parenthood.

Seeded 25 this year and with a world ranking of 181, Williams insists she will be the underdog against Kerber, despite boasting a 6-2 career lead over the 30-year-old left-hander.

"I don't have anything to lose and I feel I can play so free. That's what I'm doing," she said. Williams will face a reinvigorated Kerber, who is making a comeback of sorts.

When, in 2016, the German stunned Williams to win the Australian Open and beat Karolina Pliskova in the US Open final, losing to Williams in the Wimbledon final in between, it seemed she would be a true rival to the American.

Then it all started unravelling, as the demands of being a global star weighed her down. Having begun last year as world No. 1, she managed to reach only one Tour final and ended the season ranked 21st.

But, since hiring coach Wim Fissette - formerly with Kim Clijsters, Simona Halep and Victoria Azarenka - this year, Kerber's trajectory has been upward again.

She reached the Australian Open semi-finals and equalled her best run at Roland Garros by reaching the last eight.

"When I started this year, a goal was to be playing good in majors, in the Grand Slams, and to reach finals again. It's a great feeling," Kerber said.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 14, 2018, with the headline 'Serena insists she's underdog'. Print Edition | Subscribe