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Serena rematch with Kerber marks the resumption of a rivalry

Omnisport
NEWS
News
100   //    13 Jul 2018, 22:36 IST
SerenaKerber-Cropped
Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber after the 2016 Wimbledon final

When Serena Williams claimed her seventh Wimbledon title in 2016 with a 7-5 6-3 win over Angelique Kerber, you would have been forgiven for thinking of Saturday's rematch two years later as predictable rather than a surprise.

That meeting was the second of two grand slam final encounters between the pair in 2016, Kerber having stunned Williams over three sets at the Australian Open.

Despite the straight-sets scoreline, Williams' triumph at the All England Club, which saw her move level with Steffi Graf's record of 22 Open Era slam titles, was far from routine, Kerber's determined display leading to an engrossing encounter on Centre Court.

Those two contests suggested Kerber could be the rival Williams has often lacked in the latter half of her glittering career. However, a confluence of two events led to the potential rivalry being put on hold.

Williams famously announced she was expecting her first child having won the Australian Open while pregnant in 2017, a year that saw Kerber's form take a severe dip few could have anticipated.

The German, having ended a wonderful 2016 with the US Open title, failed to win a title on the WTA Tour in 2017 and did not go beyond the fourth round of a major.

Attempting to explain her 2017 form after Thursday's semi-final, Kerber said: "I think last year a lot of things happened. To see what is good for me, what is not so good for me, to make the priority playing tennis, to focusing on just what I love, finding my motivation. There are a lot of things."

Given Williams' absence from the tour coincided with Kerber's slump, it would be fair to consider if having arguably the greatest tennis player of all time as a primary competitor was the motivation Kerber lacked last year.

"I know that she is always pushing you to the limits to play your best tennis. This is the only chance to beat her," Kerber said of her upcoming third slam final with Williams. "It is a completely new match. We both learned a lot. She's coming back. For me also, I'm coming back from 2017.

"It will be a new match. I know that I have to play my best, best tennis to beat her, especially on the grass, on the Centre Court, where she won so many titles here."

While it will be a new match for both, Kerber's return to prominence at least came after some significant on-court foreshadowing. She won in Sydney in January before reaching the semi-finals in Melbourne, and then progressing to the last eight at Roland Garros.

By contrast Williams came into Wimbledon facing questions over fitness. The delivery of her daughter was a traumatic one complicated by blood clots in her lungs and a pulmonary embolism and she played just four matches across Indian Wells and Miami before injury ended her run to the fourth round of the French Open.

Yet Williams has emphatically dismissed any concerns of rust and, save for a testing quarter-final with Camila Giorgi, blitzed through a draw made kinder by none of the top 10 seeds making it to the last eight.

Kerber has had something of a tougher path, having to overcome a selection of the Tour's rising stars in Naomi Osaka, Daria Kasatkina and Jelena Ostapenko, but both women have a commonality: they each look back to the form of 2016 and are ready to deliver an enticing showpiece, and Williams knows levelling Margaret Court's grand slam titles record on Saturday will be far from easy.

"She's playing so well," Williams said of Kerber. "I think she's incredibly confident. Yeah, I have to be ready for the match of my life."

After a two-year break, consider the rivalry resumed.

Omnisport
NEWS
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