LONDON: Serena Williams has history in her sights as the defending champion plots to avenge one of the most painful defeats of her career by beating Angelique Kerber in Saturday’s (Sunday in Manila) Wimbledon finals.
Williams suffered a stunning loss against Kerber in the Australian Open final in January and the rivals will face off for the first time since then when they slug it out for the Wimbledon title.
There was further frustration for Serena when she lost the French Open final to Garbine Muguruza last month.
But the 34-year-old has been revitalized at the All England Club and, after taking just over 48 minutes to crush Elena Vesnina in Wimbledon’s quickest ever semi-final, she has the chance to finally equal Steffi Graf’s Open era record of 22 major titles by lifting the Venus Rosewater Dish for a seventh time.
Making history at Kerber’s expense would be especially sweet, even more so after the fourth seed defeated Serena’s sister Venus in the semifinals, and Williams says she has learnt the lessons of Australia.
“Obviously it’s significant that she beat me in Australia because that’s the last time we played,” Serena said.
“I made a lot of errors. She made little to no unforced errors. I felt like she played great. She was fearless.
“That’s something I learned. When I go into a final, I, too, need to be fearless like she was.
“It was inspiring afterwards to realize there’s a lot of things that I need to improve on.”
Since failing to complete a calender Grand Slam last year, Serena has repeatedly had her hunger for more success questioned.
But, having reached a ninth Wimbledon final and 28th in Grand Slams, Williams insists she is still motivated.
“Yeah, I have no hunger anymore. Yeah, right,” Serena said in a defiant press conference after her demolition of Vesnina.
“I mean, I think for anyone else in this whole planet, reaching the final would be a wonderful accomplishment.
“For me, it’s not enough. But I think that’s what makes me different. That’s what makes me Serena.
“For me, it’s about obviously holding the trophy and winning, which would make it a better accomplishment for me.”
In combative mood with the media, Serena was quick to quash suggestions the pressure of trying to make history had been responsible for her failure to win a Grand Slam since last year’s Wimbledon.
“My goal has never been 22. I don’t talk about that anymore,” she snapped.
“I love what I do. I work hard at what I do. I’m extremely passionate. That’s just kind of something that keeps me going.”
Asked where she ranked among the great female athletes, Williams took the chance to aim another barb at her detractors.
“I prefer ‘one of the greatest athletes of all time’,” she said with not a trace of a smile.
Fortunately for fans hoping for a drama-filled final, Kerber isn’t the type to back down in the face of Serena’s aggression.
The 28-year-old, in her first Wimbledon final and second major title match, couldn’t be in better form as she tries to become the first German woman to win Wimbledon since her idol Graf in 1996.
“I told myself that I would like to play better in the big tournaments. I just believe much more in myself, especially after Australia,” Kerber said.
“I’m a little bit more relaxed when I’m going to the tournaments. I know I can trust my tennis.”
After sweeping to the final without dropping a set, Kerber is guaranteed to reach a career-high second in the rankings next week.
But in a warning to Serena, she made it clear that will mean nothing unless she finishes as the champion.
“I will go out there with a lot of confidence. I’ll show her I’m there to win. I have to play one of my best matches,” Kerber said.