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
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.
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.
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.
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.