When Kerber runs she is not hiding she is counter-attacking
Serena Williams vs. Angelique Kerber:
For Most of the Marbles
While tennis gold medals and a US Open title are still out there, the winner of this match will have a strong case for having had the best year among female players. These two met in Australia and Angelique Kerber pulled an upset to claim the Australian Open title. Serena Williams reached the Roland Garros final where she was again kept from the winner’s circle. If Serena Williams wins, she will have a Wimbledon and Rome title in 2016 along with runner-up finishes at the French and Australian Opens. If Angelique Kerber wins, she will have an Australian Open and Wimbledon title along with a Brisbane runner-up and solid Miami showing. Regardless of the computer ranking, the winner is the lineal number one right?
Serena is especially lethal on grass
What to Expect
This match is interesting in large part due to what happened in Australia. Kerber moves as well as anyone on tour and can strike with her lefty forehand when she seems to be on the defensive. In the Australian Open final, Serena Williams often had a seeming advantage in a point and would drive a ball to the open court. Serena would then move forward. This is what tennis players do in situations such as this. Kerber stole a few points by running the ball down and sending a tough forehand over the net. Sometimes Kerber hit outright winners and sometimes she forced Serena to hit difficult volleys. In either case, her speed and forehand generated offense while also giving Serena Williams pause. Making a player hesitate or second guess attacking can have benefits as a match unfolds. Kerber did this often enough to win a competitive 3 set match.
If the Wimbledon final plays out in the manner that the Australian Open final progressed, this match will be a toss-up. If Serena Williams returns slightly better and finishes points slightly better than she did in Melbourne, Serena Williams will be the likely winner. Kerber’s serve is not a weapon, but if she can slide her lefty delivery around the court and take advantage of the bounces on grass, she can again hold serve more easily than Serena would prefer. Serena on the other hand has a big serve and will likely find grass a more favorable surface for her serve than the Australian Open’s plexicushion. I would expect a similar match to what we saw in Australia, but it will have important differences as well. Kerber will run a lot. She will strike on the run, but Serena may be more prepared for this reality.
I think Serena is obviously the favorite to win this match, but she is probably a smaller favorite than she was heading into the Australian Open final. Kerber has won a major title and did so by beating Serena Williams. Mentally, Serena has an edge being a 6-time Wimbledon champion and 21-time major champion. It is just a smaller edge than would exist if Kerber was still unsure if she would ever win a singles major in her career. I am a little torn on this match. Mentally, I expect Serena Williams to win for many reasons. Yet, when I watched Kerber convert her match point against Venus, the pattern was so similar to points she won in Australia. Attacking Kerber opens up angles for Kerber to counter-attack. Serena is one of the greatest attacking tennis players of all time so I don’t see a change of strategy. It will be strength versus strength for the top spot in the sport. That will be fun for fans and could lead to a match unfolding in favor of either Serena or Angelique.
My Prediction: Serena Williams d. Angelique Kerber 5-7, 6-2, 6-3
Confidence in my pick – moderate
22 would give Serena a palindrome of major titles