This Saturday, before an audience of Meghan Markle and 14,978 others, Serena Williams will take on Angelique Kerber in the Wimbledon final.
This is a repeat of the 2016 showpiece when Williams prevailed 7-5 6-3.
With a straight-sets defeat of Julia Goerges in the last four, the American secured a place in the 30th Grand Slam final of her spellbinding career. In Kerber, the 36-year-old will meet a two-time major winner and former no.1 who has rediscovered the form that took her to such heights.
As in every final she contests, Williams is the favourite (1/2 for this one). However, we shouldn’t write off the German’s chances.
There are a number of factors that give Kerber a shot at pulling off the upset at 13/8.
She’s back in form
In an interview with Porsche Tennis Magazine, Kerber said that she felt “empty and disorientated” after her 2017 campaign.
The two major triumphs handed Kerber the no.1 ranking and a truckload of extra commitments and pressure. The spotlight shone a little too bright on her and the German’s performances suffered.
Kerber won 63 of her 81 matches in 2016. The win column collapsed to just 29 the following season after a string of early exits, that included a first round loss at Flushing Meadows as defending champion.
This led the lefty to shift both her coach and mindset. The highly-regarded Wim Fissette joined her team in November 2017 and the German has tried to be easier on herself after defeats. The changes have worked as Kerber has enjoyed an excellent year to date.
The 30-year-old started the season with a title in Sydney and followed it up with an impressive run to the semi-finals of the Australian Open. There have also been quarter-final runs at Indian Wells, Miami, Dubai, Rome and Roland Garros.
With 32 wins already this year, Kerber looks back to her best.
Kerber’s had a great tournament
Apart from a tricky clash in the second round, Kerber has made pretty light work of her matches at SW19 this year.
The German started the fortnight with a straight-sets win over 2010 Wimbledon finalist Vera Zvonareva.
Rising star Claire Liu proved a much tougher adversary in the second round, snatching the first set before Kerber recovered. A string of dangerous adversaries followed, but they were all skillfully navigated by Bremen’s finest.
Kerber’s experience and toughness shone through as she overcame Naomi Osaka, Belinda Bencic, Daria Kasatkina and the 2017 French Open champion, Jelena Ostapenko, to reach a second Wimbledon final.
Her court coverage and slice serve were a particularly toxic combination for Ostapenko in Thursday’s semi-final.
The Latvian fired missile after missile, however the German’s defence held firm and she counterattacked brilliantly.
Kerber will have high confidence in her movement and ball striking when she takes to Centre Court on Saturday.
She’s beaten Serena in a grand slam final before
In the 2016 Australian Open final, Kerber shocked the tennis world with a three-set triumph over Williams.
It was the first grand slam title, and final, for a player who had never won a WTA Premier event before. Going into the match, the German battler had also suffered five defeats to Williams from six meetings.
Meanwhile, the American entered the final in top form after comfortable victories over Maria Sharapova and Agnieszka Radwanska in the quarters and semis respectively. The defending champion looked all set to lift the Daphne Akhurst trophy for a seventh time.
However, an outstanding performance from Kerber coupled with a few too many errors off Williams’s racquet introduced Angie to Daphne.
There would be another major title for the German at the US Open that season.
Williams could have a (rare) bad day
With a record of 23 majors from 29 finals played, it’s clear that Serena Williams is a formidable opponent at the highest level.
Apart from the on-court strain, the 36-year-old has also had to deal with relentless media coverage, racism and sexism during her career.
She is rightly a superheroine to many. But even the best can get nervous.
In the summer of 2015, when she was pursuing an extremely rare calendar grand slam, Williams surprisingly fell two matches shy in the US Open semi-final.
While it’s true that the unfancied Roberta Vinci produced a brilliant performance that night at Arthur Ashe Stadium, the American couldn’t find her best tennis as history shadowed her throughout the match.
This Saturday, Williams is again chasing an all-time record.
Margaret Court holds the honour of most singles grand slam titles won with 24. Serena is just one shy.
Could the pressure of such a momentous achievement weigh down the greatest female player of all time?
Well, football didn’t come home in the end, so I guess anything’s possible!