Wimbledon 2018 Final Preview: Angelique Kerber vs. Serena Williams

The 2018 Wimbledon final will be contested between the number 11 and 25 seeds, Angelique Kerber and Serena Williams. The main talking point of this year’s Wimbledon has been the upsets with all top ten seeds out by the close of play on Manic Monday. However, the WTA’s strength in depth has been demonstrated by the quality of players left in the second week and with the last two standing coming together for a repeat of the 2016 final. If someone had told me that Angie and Serena were in the final at the start of the tournament, it would have sounded totally believable. Read on for a detailed preview of Saturday’s women’s final including semi-final recaps, stats, head-to-head analysis and the final thoughts.

Routes through the draw:

Angelique Kerber’s 2018 draw path started against a veteran in fellow former finalist, Zvonareva. Since then, Kerber been taking on the young guns, one-by-one. Kerber’s two most convincing wins have come against the hard hitters in Osaka and Ostapenko. Kerber has dropped just the one set during the tournament and that came against her lowest ranked opponent, last year’s junior champion and the world # 237, Claire Liu.

R1: Kerber d. Vera Zvonareva, 7-5 6-3

R2: Kerber d. Claire Liu, 3-6 6-2 6-4

R3: Kerber d. Naomi Osaka, 6-2 6-4

R4: Kerber d. Belinda Bencic, 6-3 7-6(5)

QF: Kerber d. Daria Kasatkina, 6-3 7-5

SF: Kerber d. Jelena Ostapenko, 6-3 6-3

There’s no sugar coating that this has been a favourable draw for Serena Williams. I’m firmly in the camp that all you can do is beat the player that is in front of you. Williams is one of the best at getting up for the big clashes against the top seeds. Williams has gone into each match as the heavy favourite and delivered on every count. Her semi-final match against Julia Goerges was the first seed she has played and was arguably, her most convincing display of the tournament so far.

R1: S.Williams d. Arantxa Rus, 7-5 6-3

R2: S.Williams d. Viktoriya Tomova, 6-1 6-4

R3: S.Williams d. Kristina Mladenovic, 7-5 7-6(2)

R4: S.Williams d. Evgeniya Rodina, 6-2 6-2

QF: S.Williams d. Camila Giorgi, 3-6 6-3 6-4

SF: S.Williams d. Julia Goerges, 6-2 6-4

Semi-Final Results:

Kerber d. Ostapenko, 6-3 6-3

Angelique Kerber advanced to her fourth Slam final with a straight sets win over Jelena Ostapenko. Kerber has been so, so steady during this tournament and delivered yet another solid display that saw her give so few free points away. Kerber only hit 10 winners, but matched that with seven unforced errors. She defended valiantly and consistently forced errors from an increasingly erratic, Ostapenko.

The most impressive aspect of Kerber’s game this tournament has been her serve. It was surprising how few times Ostapenko was able to attack on return as Kerber landed 77% of first serves in, her best performance in this category throughout the two weeks. Kerber served extremely well on the big points. Facing break point at *2-3 in the first set, Kerber served an ace out wide. A run of seven straight games from 2-3 to 6-3 3-0 was ultimately the clincher for Kerber as Ostapenko went for too much too early in the rallies and offered up little resistance during this spell.

Kerber was unable to serve out the match at 6-3 *5-1. The German player kept landing the first serves, but it was actually Ostapenko who raised her level and found the lines. Kerber served for the match again at 6-3 *5-3 and faced a break point. Yet another first serve, on the line, saw Ostapenko into the net. Ostapenko didn’t have a good return day at all but a lot of that came down to how well Kerber served and mixed it up too. Kerber closed out the match at the second time of asking for her 38th win of 2018.

S.Williams d. Goerges, 6-2 6-4

Serena Williams beat Julia Goerges in straight sets to reach her tenth Wimbledon final. As a first-time Slam semi-finalist, I thought Goerges played a great match. This wasn’t really reflected in the scoreline because Williams was just so damn impressive. Williams served superbly, winning 87% of points behind her first serve, and hitting just seven (SEVEN!) unforced errors throughout the match. I really liked how Williams used angles, one of her underrated strengths, to get Goerges out wide, and also forced her back behind the baseline with depth and power.

Like Kerber, Williams was unable to serve out the match at the first time of asking at *6-2 *5-4. There were some nerves from Williams as she looked indecisive coming forward. Full credit to Goerges who had a fantastic attitude. It was her first meaningful opportunity on the Williams serve and she grabbed it. Sadly, the nerves of serving to stay in the match, and Championships, were too much. Goerges’s arm looked heavy on serve and she couldn’t prolong the match any longer as Williams broke to love to secure the straight sets win.

Semi-Final Press Conferences:

As mentioned a few times this week, Wimbledon have done a fantastic job at posting all the press conferences. Press conferences for Kerber and Williams are both linked below from the Wimbledon YouTube page.

Stats:

Wimbledon is the one tournament where I really dive into the statistics before the final. Kerber hit more unforced errors than winners in her first two matches, but has since been positive all the way and arrives into the final with a +30 winners to unforced error differential. Kerber hit a combined 61 winners through her third and fourth round wins. She has kept it just steady in her last two matches with 26 winners combined for the quarter-finals and semi-finals. Interestingly, Kerber’s two best serving displays have come against the hard hitters in Osaka and Ostapenko. Kerber has averaged 68% of first serves in and impressively, won over half of second serve points.

Apart from her first round win over Rus in windy conditions, Williams has been positive in the winners category every single match and heads into the final with a +53 winners to unforced error differential. Williams has averaged just nine unforced errors in her last three matches, astonishing considering one of them was a three setter against Giorgi. The serve has been a big talking point after the chest muscle injury that forced her out of the French Open. The first serve percentage has been decent with an average of 64% first serves in and winning 80% of points behind it. Williams has won an average of 51% second serve points, the same as Kerber.

Head-to-head record:

Williams leads Kerber, 6-2 in their head-to-head. Their last three meetings have been in finals and last two have been Slam finals, back in 2016. Both were memorable. Kerber won her first Slam at the Australian Open, 6-4 3-6 6-4 and then Williams produced a serving masterclass to win at Wimbledon, 7-5 6-3. The 2016 Wimbledon final, their last meeting on tour, was of a very high standard from both players.

Final Thoughts:

It is quite remarkable how quickly Williams has found her mojo after her return to the tour following the birth of her first child. Williams has played just 13 matches since coming back and it feels like she has never been away. It’s easy to take it for granted what Williams has achieved on her comeback and feels rather underrated and almost overlooked considering everything she has been through in the last year.

Williams had her biggest test in the quarter-finals against Giorgi. As she stated in her press conference after that match, she felt surprisingly calm and never really looked in danger. Williams’s game has looked superb and the serve, while perhaps not as potent as in previous Wimbledon runs, has still stood out from the crowd and been her greatest asset.

Steady is the word that I keep on using to describe Kerber this tournament. She’s been clutch for the most part and handled a wide variety of players, peaking against the big hitters. Kerber’s game marries beautifully with the grass and I think it’s her best surface. The serve, a generally improved weapon of Kerber’s in 2018, has really helped her out in the crux moments.

This is a fun match-up and has produced two fantastic Slam finals. I’m really hopeful we’ll get another cracker on Saturday. As I wrote in my preview for the Wimbledon final two years ago, the serve is key. As well as Kerber has served during this tournament, the Williams serve is just so dependable. If Williams serves well again then i’m not really sure what Kerber can do.

I’m intrigued to see how Williams reacts if she does get into a winning position and the title comes into sight. Williams showed a few nerves serving out the match against Goerges and no doubt she will feel it, particularly as she has played so few matches since her comeback and not won a title since the 2017 Australian Open. As much of a champ that she is, serving out matches, let alone Slams, is rarely straightforward.

Williams has not been severely tested this week and she’s not come up against someone as solid as Kerber who will keep on putting balls back into court all day long. If Kerber is to prevail, then I think she will have to take some risks. Against Ostapenko, she didn’t need to as the Latvian player offered up a large tally of errors.

In terms of who I want to win, I feel relatively neutral. #24 after everything that Williams has been through would be an extraordinary moment. To see Kerber back in the winner’s circle after her painful 2017 season would be equally sweet.

In terms of who I think will win, i’m going for Serena.

Final Poll:

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22 thoughts on “Wimbledon 2018 Final Preview: Angelique Kerber vs. Serena Williams

  1. These two ladies are not just rivals, but also best friends too. Kerber has improved from her 2017 sophomore slump. But, Serena’s been more consistent as far as the overall win-loss record and winning percentile range in her career. We should remember a lot about Serena. When Serena was trying to tie Steffi Graf in 2016, she was a mess. But, she FINALLY tied the record at Wimbledon that year. Since then, she’s looking much more focused, not under pressure, and she’s back on track with her form. Serena herself is aware of how much better Kerber has gotten with her game. Kerber will put up a good fight. But, she doesn’t have the big serve to get herself out of trouble. With that said, Serena will take this match in two sets.

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    • I think you have got Angie confused with Caroline (who the media has called Serena’s best friend), and even though they are great friends. This bestie thing is promoted by the media.

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  2. I thought that I was imagining it when Ostapenko gave her opponent a hug at the end of the semi final match today after losing. Perhaps the ‘ bad girl of tennis ‘ has changed her outlook. I hope so as she was described by the BBC pundits as a player who is fun to watch and I have to agree. I quite enjoyed the match and the contrast in styles of the two players and was hoping that it would go to a 3rd set. Ostapenko did fight back and improved towards the end of the 2nd set and another set looked a possibilty but Kerber had other plans.

    I am going with Kerber to win the final. She seems back to her best and is enjoying her tennis and served well today and looked in control. Serena has done well at Wimbledon this year and is obviously a formidable opponent but she has not played against somebody as good as Kerber on her path to the final and has not played a lot of competitive tennis this year so Kerber may be too good for her on this occasion.

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    • Yes I think Ostapenko has matured on court in this past year and she’s much warmer with the other players, win or lose. I watched back the matches last night and thought they were both entertaining despite them being over quite quickly. I’m really positive that it will be a competitive final!

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      • Thanks James. I have done really well with my predictions at Wimbledon this year and got at least 75% of them right……which is about 50 % better than I usually do !

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  3. Thanks for your preview, James! I was quite busy the last months but still I was following tennis. So happy for Kerber…last year this time around I was so sad when she lost against Garbi. Also I thought she might have reached her peak in 2016. I never thought she’d get to another GS final. At the beginning of 2018 I was feeling really positive after Sydney but also felt like she might have missed a really good chance at the AO. Probs to you for counting on Keber to excel on grass… you did that the whole year. Always mentioning that you think she’s going to have a stellar run in Wimbledon! 🙂
    Believe it or not: I really don’t care who is winning this time. Everything’s a bonus now for both of them. obviously I’m cheering for Angie but a Serena win would be an astonishing achievement. i’d be happy too. Coming back after pregnancy and competing in a major final is lethal. She wouldn’t be the first (Clijsters) but she’d do it not even a year after pregnancy. Kudos to all the moms on tour. Also, she would tie Margaret and shut her up. No one needs her stupid opinions.

    Fingers crossed for an awesome final and a really nice hug in the end! These two like and respect each other!

    On a side note: I loved Jelena’s interview. She’s matured a lot and I see herr winning some more GS if she adjusts her game a little bit and finds a Game B when Game A (which is amazing btw) is not working!!

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    • Murphy! Great to hear from you 🙂

      I’m sure I was heavily pro-Kerber for their last final but have really warmed to Serena in recent years and it would be something special were she to go on and win after everything she has been through. They both clearly have great respect for each other and i’m expecting a good hug at the end, whatever the outcome 😉

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  4. Nice writing James. Thanks for the everyday company. Just picking 3 sets, on the fence for the winner, Serena’s supremacy, or Kerber’s German attitude… hmm?

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  5. I think Serena should win, unless she plays a nervy match. Angie had the element of surprise against Serena in 2016 because nobody thought or expected that she would win. She won’t have that tomorrow- based on form and ranking, technically she is the favourite.

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  6. Hi James

    Thank you for you great preview on Saturday’s final, fantastic as always.

    let me introduce myself in a few words: I am a “die-hard” Kerber Fan from Germany who was guided to mootennis (by Google 😉 after the 2016 AO final when I was looking for “international reactions” on Kerber’s victory over Serena. since then I’m reading your blog on a regular basis and in my eyes the work you do with this blog is simpy amazing, always reading it with pleasure.

    concerning Saturday’s final: of course I hope Angie can fulfil her dream and take home the trophy. but I must admit I am not assured she wins, I would rate her chances higher if the final would take place on another surface because. grass supports Serena’s serve very much. on the other hand Angie is playing like “a woman on a mission” so maybe… I think the key in this match for Angie will be to avoid an early break. because Serena is a great frontrunner. in the AO final it was Angie who broke first in the first and in the third set and set the tone for winning these sets. I expect a great final. even if it delivers “only” two tight sets it will be worth watching.

    P.S. sorry for my moderate English, I know it’s not he best, but I try to improve…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I love these long sets of tough tennis, but in the end, I feel it hurts your chances in the next round. Isner and Anderson may have just played their Wimbledon final. Might as well give the crown to Djokovic or Nadal, unless they also decide to entertain us by going the mile too!

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    • Unless Novak wins the 4th set today, I think it’s going to be pretty even in terms of fatigue.

      I’ve seen people blasting Wimbledon for allowing the men to choose if they want to finish before or after the women’s finals calling it unfair. But is it fair that the men would have to potentially play this evening and return tomorrow for the final? Surely it would have made more sense to use Court 1 for one of the semi finals in the first place…

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      • Agreed, I don’t think the men’s semi-final should have been after the women’s final because that’s hardly a fair situation with Anderson already into the final. I think starting at 1pm on CC is ridiculous. I think it should be a 12pm start, or they move Nadal-Djokovic to No.1 Court.

        Serena and Angie not getting a start time is poor. I’m even more annoyed that the women’s doubles match gets a TBA court arrangement and is very unlikely to be on Centre. Of course, the men’s doubles gets Centre… I thought we might get through Wimby without any major scheduling debates 😂😂😂

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    • Credit to Anderson for winning those two long matches and having to serve to stay in it. I was nervous for him serving for the match. To be honest, I found most of that final set of Isner-Anderson to be dreadfully dull.

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      • There have been suggestions (including from Anderson himself) that the rules should change to allow a final set to be settled by, for example, a tiebreak after a certain number of games instead of forcing it to drag on ad infinitum until one player has a two game advantage, and I agree; at least for matches other than the final. It’s simply wrong in my book to expect a player to remain competitive after playing for more than six hours two days before.

        Well done to Kevin for winning it anyway, but I don’t think he should have had to.

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  8. Pingback: Wimbledon 2018 Final Preview: Angelique Kerber vs. Serena Williams – Comparama

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