Clash of comeback queens

A-      A+

ALL the talk since Wimbledon began has been about the return to the Tour of 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams after she became a mother last September.

Williams famously won last year’s Australian Open while pregnant with daughter Alexis Olympia before going on maternity leave and making a tentative comeback in March.

Germany’s Angelique Kerber, who will try to prevent Williams winning an eighth Wimbledon title today, never went away but is making a comeback of sorts too.

In 2016, when Kerber stunned Williams to win the Australian Open and beat Karolina Pliskova in the US Open final — losing to Williams in the Wimbledon final in between — it seemed she marked herself out as true rival to the American.

Then it all started unravelling, as expectations weighed her down and the added demands of being a global superstar began to impact on what she does best.

Having begun last year as world No 1, she reached only one Tour final and ended it ranked 21st.

Since hiring coach Wim Fissette — formerly with Kim Clijsters, Simona Halep and Victoria Azarenka — at the start of the year, Kerber’s trajectory has been upward again.

She reached the Australian Open semifinal and equalled her best run at Roland Garros by making the last eight.

On Thursday, the 30-year-old lefthander played an immaculate match to beat Jelena Ostapenko 6-3, 6-3 and set up a second Wimbledon final against the 36-year-old Williams.

“It’s a completely new match. We both learned a lot. She’s coming back. I’m coming back from last year,” Kerber said.

“I can’t compare this year with 2016 or last year. I’m proud to be back in the final, especially after last year where things weren’t like I was expecting.

“When I started this year, the goal was to be playing good in Majors and reaching finals again.

“It’s a great feeling.”

With experience of three Slam finals, two against Williams, she will not be cowed.

But Kerber has healthy respect for her opponent.

“She’s a fighter, a champion. That’s why she’s where she is now,” Kerber said.
— Reuters