Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Sports

No all-Williams final, but still one of note

LONDON — Instead of the ninth all-Williams final at a Grand Slam tournament, a rematch of another sort will be held to determine the title at Wimbledon.

As Serena Williams again stands one win from a record-tying 22nd major title, she needs to beat a woman who already stopped her once this year in that pursuit, Angelique Kerber.

After the top-seeded Williams needed all of 48 minutes to overwhelm unseeded Elena Vesnina 6-2, 6-0, sister Venus, seeded eighth, lost to fourth-seeded Kerber 6-4, 6-4 in Thursday's second semifinal.

Since winning her sixth Wimbledon trophy a year ago to raise her career major title count to 21, Serena has come close to pulling even with Steffi Graf at 22, the most in the Open era, which began in 1968 (Margaret Court's all-time mark is 24). But she was surprisingly beaten by Roberta Vinci in the U.S. Open semifinals in September, then by Kerber in the Australian Open final in January, and by Garbine Muguruza in the French Open final last month.

Reaching the final at each of a year's first three major tournaments might sound good to other players. Not to this one.

"For anyone else in this whole planet, it would be a wonderful accomplishment," Serena said. "For me, it's about, obviously, holding the trophy and winning, which would make it a better accomplishment for me. … But I think that's what makes me different. That's what makes me Serena."

When asked what she makes of it when others talk about her as one of history's greatest female athletes, this was the reply: "I prefer … one of the greatest 'athletes' of all time."

Her case will be even stronger if she can do what she couldn't in Australia: solve Kerber's left-handed game.

"I know," Kerber said, "she will go out and try everything to beat me right now."

That Australian Open victory gave Kerber her first major title in her first major final. She insisted Thursday that she is more relaxed and more confident on the court because of that big moment. She didn't necessarily look that way at the outset against Venus, who at 36 was the oldest major semifinalist since Martina Navratilova was 37 at Wimbledon in 1994.

Venus, a five-time Wimbledon champion, hadn't been to the semis since she was the runner­up to Serena seven years ago.

Against Kerber, Venus was broken the first four times she served. She never recovered.

"A very shaky match from her," said Venus' coach, David Witt. "She was fighting hard, but she was frustrated. I could tell. Her concentration was up and down. The focus was up and down. That made her game up and down."

Perhaps the accumulated court time during the past two weeks simply took a toll on Venus, who revealed in 2011 that she has Sjongren's syndrome, which can cause fatigue and joint pain. She was a half-step slow to some balls, was breathing heavily after longer points and wound up with 21 unforced errors, 10 more than Kerber.

"I was trying to (move) her, as well," Kerber said. "That was the plan."

Serena's match resembled a training session for her, except she probably gets more of a workout when she practices.

"I couldn't do anything today," said Vesnina, a two-time Wimbledon runnerup in doubles who later Thursday played in the quarterfinals of that event and lost to Serena a second time. The Williams-Williams pairing beat Vesnina and Ekaterina Makarova 7-6 (7-1), 4-6, 6-2.

That means Venus still has a chance to leave Wimbledon with a trophy, just like her sister.

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