Wimbledon 2016: Serena Williams 'heavy favourite' to beat Angelique Kerber

By Jonathan JurejkoBBC Sport at Wimbledon
Wimbledon 2016: Serena Williams v Angelique Kerber
Kerber is playing in her first Wimbledon final, while Williams is contesting her ninth
Ladies' singles final: Serena Williams v Angelique Kerber
Date: Saturday, 9 July
Start: 14:00 BST
Coverage: Live on BBC One, BBC Radio 5 live and BBC Sport website.

Serena Williams is a "heavy favourite" to equal Steffi Graf's open era record of 22 Grand Slam titles by winning the Wimbledon women's singles final, says 1999 champion Lindsay Davenport.

Williams, 34, hopes to win her seventh SW19 singles title when she meets Germany's Angelique Kerber on Saturday.

Fourth seed Kerber, 28, beat Williams in the Australian Open final and is looking for her second major title.

"Serena is moving better than she did in Melbourne," said Davenport.

Wimbledon 2016: Serena Williams serve key against Kerber

"She is the heavy favourite just based on the surface. And that's not to mention being a six-time champion and the level she has played at over the past two weeks."

Williams reached her ninth Wimbledon singles final by thrashing unseeded Russian Elena Vesnina in 48 minutes, while Kerber beat Williams' 36-year-old sister Venus.

Saturday's match, which starts at 14:00 BST, will be broadcast live from Centre Court on BBC One, BBC Radio 5 live and the BBC Sport website.

Later, the Williams sisters will face Hungary's Timea Babos and Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan in the women's doubles final.

Wimbledon 2016: Serena Williams v Angelique Kerber
Serena Williams has much more Wimbledon experience than Angelique Kerber

Will Serena feel the pressure?

Williams last year moved ahead of Martina Navratilova into second on the list of most Grand Slam wins with victories at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and French Open.

That put the American within one of German legend Graf, who won her 22 majors between 1987 and 1999.

She missed the chance to draw level - and complete her first calendar Slam - when she was beaten by unseeded Italian Roberta Vinci in the US Open semi-finals.

Williams has lost the two major finals since - beaten by Kerber at the Australian Open and world number two Garbine Muguruza at the French Open.

Tracy Austin, a two-time Grand Slam winner, thinks the pressure of moving level with Graf may be playing a part.

"When Serena won here last year to get to 21 we all thought it would not be long until the 22nd," said the American.

"By Serena's standards it has taken a while - it has taken a whole year.

"She is hitting the ball cleanly and serving well so she is the clear favourite - unless nerves take over."

Wimbledon 2016: Serena Williams beats Elena Vesnina to reach ninth final

Coach 'kept Serena interested' in Slams

Williams' focus on overtaking Graf seemed to sharpen following the appointment of Patrick Mouratoglou as her coach.

She joined forces with the Frenchman, who had previously coached Britain's Laura Robson and Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, following a first-round defeat by world number 111 Virginie Razzano at the 2012 French Open.

Since teaming up with Mouratoglou, she has won eight of the past 16 majors.

The Mouratoglou effect
Winning %83%92%
Grand Slam titles138
Grand Slam-winning %27%50%

"She gives so much credit to Patrick - and he should get a lot of credit," said Austin.

"He has changed Serena's game, helping her put a little bit more top spin on her forehand.

"Most importantly, he has made her understand that she could be thought of as the greatest in the history of women's tennis.

"She has gone macro in chasing Grand Slam titles and it kept her interested."

Can Kerber stop the Serena serve?

Kerber knows she can beat Williams on the biggest stage having done so on the hard court in Melbourne.

But beating the top seed on a grass court at Wimbledon is an entirely different proposition, says Davenport.

Williams tops the serving stats at this year's tournament, firing down more aces and faster serves than anyone else.

While her first-serve percentage does not rank in the top 20, she makes the ones she does get in count.

"A high percentage of Kerber's returns have to go back to Serena," said Davenport. "And this is the most difficult surface to do that on."

Serena's supreme serving
AcesFastest serve
Serena Williams (61)Serena Williams (123 mph)
Elena Vesnina (31)Sabine Lisicki (122 mph)
Karolina Pliskova (25)Venus Williams (121 mph)
First serve %First serve points %
Sara Errani (85)Serena Williams (81)
Monica Niculescu (76)Samantha Crawford (79)
Marina Erakovic (73)Karolina Pliskova (79)
Wimbledon 2016: Serena Williams v Angelique Kerber
This Hawk-Eye graphic shows how accurate Williams has been with her first serves, only 3% landing in the middle of the service box

'Athlete Kerber has incredible defence'

While Williams is an experienced hand at Wimbledon finals, Kerber will be competing in her first at the All England Club.

The left-hander has enjoyed an almost faultless run, not dropping a set in her six previous matches.

She has bounced back from the disappointment of losing in the first round at the French Open last month - her first major since becoming a Grand Slam champion.

Kerber says she feels relaxed before Saturday's match and believes she is playing the best tennis of her career.

"Being left-handed has helped Angelique because she has that slice and that is enhanced on the grass court," said Austin.

"She has never been known to have a big serve, it is more a consistent serve and it has improved in the last year.

"But that second serve can become a liability so she will have to get a lot of first serves in."

Wimbledon 2016: Serena Williams v Angelique Kerber
Kerber uses her left-handed serve to keep the ball considerably lower on grass courts than other surfaces, hitting 73% of her first serves so far out wide

Williams and Kerber have never met on grass before, the American winning five of their seven matches, which have all been on a hard court.

However, Austin and Davenport believe Kerber stands as good a chance as anyone of repelling Williams' armoury.

"Kerber's defence is incredible," said Austin. "There are so many points where you think she is out of it and then she somehow manages to get herself there with quick feet."

Davenport said: "She is one of the best athletes playing the game.

"She is not as powerful as Serena but has great anticipation. She gives herself time, backs up and reads the play. Then she does stuff with her hands to make the balls do incredible things."

What Serena says

"My goal has never been 22. I don't talk about that any more.

"Right now I feel like my game is pretty good. I feel good. I felt great in other tournaments, as well. But I feel a little different. I just feel more relaxed and more at peace than I may have been in the past.

"I made a lot of errors in the Australian Open. Angelique made little to no unforced errors, but it was still a three-set match.

"I felt like I could have played better. I felt like she played great. She came out swinging, ready to win.

"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 realise there is a lot of things that I need to improve on."

What Kerber says

"I expect a really tough match. I know that she will go out and try to beat me, especially because she lost against me in Australia.

"On grass she is always dangerous. She has won here so many times, she will go for it. I know this. I know I have to play some of my best tennis.

"I must play my game, being aggressive, just going for it, trying to win the match, not hoping that she will miss. She will not be missing the ball.

"She will go out there trying to win. I think this will be very important to take the match in my hands."

Wimbledon 2016: Angelique Kerber beats Venus Williams

Game, set and stats

  • Williams is playing in her 28th Grand Slam singles final.
  • In the open era, only Chris Evert (34), Martina Navratilova (32) and Steffi Graf (31) have reached more.
  • Williams has won 78% of her previous Grand Slam finals, behind only Margaret Court (85%) and ahead of Graf (71%) and Monica Seles (69%).
  • Williams has reached the final in seven of the past eight Grand Slam finals.
  • Saturday's match is the first time since 2006 that two women have met in multiple Slam finals in the same year (Justine Henin played Amelie Mauresmo at the Australian Open and Wimbledon in 2006).
  • Kerber is the fifth left-handed woman to reach the Wimbledon final in the open era.
  • Kerber is aiming to become the first German to win Wimbledon since Steffi Graf in 1996.
  • Williams will remain the world number one - a position she has held since February 2013 - even if she loses.
  • Kerber will rise to a joint career-high ranking of two.
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