Angelique Kerber vs. Venus Williams
Tell me, O Muse,
of the man of many devices, who wandered full many ways after he had sacked the sacred citadel of Troy. of the player of many skills who traveled six long matches to reach the 2016 Wimbledon final
Prologue – Perfectly 50-50???
I have been having an internal debate about this match that is still not settled. I am hoping that while writing some self-generated consensus emerges regarding who will win. If that doesn’t work, I will flip a coin and let you know that the Muse has spoken.
Kerber’s Rise, Momentary Dip, and Rise
Angelique Kerber had a superb 2015 across the WTA Tour, but her results at the 4 majors were not ideal. She proved her regular tour success could be a springboard by upending Serena Williams in the 2016 Australian Open final in a match won by her scrambling forehand passing shots and counter-punches. The pressure of being a major champion seemingly crushed Kerber’s clay court season. Now, Kerber is no longer the most recent first-time Grand Slam champion in tennis (see Muguruza, Garbine who also had a post major letdown). Without this burden, Kerber has won 5 matches and played good tennis in reaching the Wimbledon semifinal round. She is 4 winning sets away from being the de facto #1 player in the world regardless of how the computer rankings shake out after Wimbledon.
Skip to 15:30ish forward for the Trophy
Venus and the Venus Rosewater Dish
Venus Williams has won the Wimbledon singles title 5 times (2000, 2001, 2005, 2007, and 2008). Her game works quite well on grass. She has a big serve, she moves well, she volleys opportunistically, and uses her reach to win points when hitting outside of her comfort zone. This factor is where I see Venus’ biggest comparative advantage versus Kerber. Angelique Kerber’s scrambling will cause Venus to hit some extra shots and sometimes from uncomfortable positions on the court. Venus’ shot production is at times a bit quirky and she does have a hitch in some of her shots, but because of this Venus is also used to hitting balls in odd spots.
Stick and Move or Move and Stick?
Angelique Kerber’s Biggest Advantage
If Venus is used to hitting shots from outside of her ideal striking range, Angelique Kerber’s speed and strength let her turn defensive situations into offensive situations. Kerber is an excellent mover, but that is only half of the story. Her strength and balance allow her to hit the ball hard when scrambling. Kerber is not just a retriever on the court. She is a counter-puncher of extreme quality who happens to be left-handed. All of this can make for a long day if a player is used to dictating play.
Venus won a long night match versus Kerber in 2014. Can she win a long day match if it comes to that in 2016? What if the roof closes? Who would that favor?
- Her serve benefits from both grass bounces and her left-handedness, but is it strong enough to beat Venus on grass? She will serve in 50% of the games on a surface that rewards good serving.
- Can she handle the pressure of again being in the mix for a Grand Slam title? Her post Aussie daze seems to be gone, but is it really gone?
- Venus Williams is playing her first Grand Slam semifinal since US Open 2010. Kerber is playing in her second major semifinal of 2016. Venus has not won a major semifinal since Wimbledon 2009. Has she had a manageable draw and won matches with an inevitable reversion to her post-2009 mean coming versus Kerber?
- How is Venus’ health and stamina? If this match goes deep into a 3rd set, as it might, will her health be her undoing?
My Prediction (I Did Not Flip a Coin): Angelique Kerber d. Venus Williams 4-6, 6-4, 6-4
Confidence in my prediction – Low – Venus’ health left questions in my mind, and I tend to favor a player I have fewer questions about to win a match.