July 9, 2016
Serena Williams is such a strong favourite in the Wimbledon Women’s Singles Final this year that only two things can stop her from making history.
The first and most obvious of these is for Anglique Kerber, her opponent in the final soon to start on Centre Court, to raise her game substantially.
After all, Kerber defeated Williams in the Australian Open final a few months ago. Why shouldn’t she be able to do it again?
Well, harsh as it sounds, her current form might not be good enough to swing it. True, she is in the final – so she must be doing something right.
But her quarter-final victory over Simona Halep saw her serve broken almost at will. Only because Halep’s serve was even weaker, and Kerber handled the big points better, did the German win through.
The semi-final against Venus Williams was a strange affair, with Venus overcome by physical and mental weariness.
Though the overall level of that match improved slightly in the second set, there was nothing out there to worry Serena in the slightest.
Make no mistake, Angelique Kerber will have to raise her game significantly to stand any chance this afternoon.
So what else, if anything, could prove to be Serena’s downfall? The same factor that has left her in bits during every showpiece since the last Wimbledon – the weight of history.
Serena has tightened and buckled under the pressure of expectancy at the US Open, the Australian and the French.
It’s that tantalising statistic that gets her every time. The one that says another Grand Slam will draw her level with Steffi Graf’s total of 22.
She’s just got to forget about it. Serena has to learn from her defeat to Kerber in Australia, feed off her desire for revenge, play in the moment. Then history – and her place in it – will take care of itself.
Can Serena do it? Or will she falter once more? She has been playing at a far higher level than anyone who reached the last four of the tournament.
Only Dominika Cibulkova might have troubled her on recent Wimbledon form – but she went out in the one of the shocks of the quarter-finals.
So finally, on the grass of Centre Court, we take Serena Williams to do what she has been trying to do for the past year – equal Steffi by taking another title.
If she gets this one, she can go on to beat Graf on the all-time list. Only Serena can beat Serena today. It sounds strange, but it’s the truth.
Unless Kerber tranforms into the player she was in Australia, she has no more than an outside chance. And even that Kerber from Australia wouldn’t beat a Serena Williams back to her very best.