Some similarities - many differences
Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber never give up. On the court, they are relentless, intense and always motivated. They are both former world No.1s and Grand Slam champions. They both enjoy playing on grass. The similarities end there.
A breakdown of their playing styles places them on opposite sides of the tennis spectrum. Kerber, a lefty, is a master counter-puncher, with a disguised ability to attack on demand. Her switch from defence to attack is a work of art. She can outrun any opponent and is tireless in her execution.
Williams is a natural-born attacker. The right-handed American boasts a huge serve that wins her a lot of free points. Her backhand is one of the best the game has ever seen and her forehand is equally devastating. She epitomises the meaning of ‘clutch’ when it comes to the important moments and unlike Kerber, who can rally for days, prefers to shorten the points with her aggressive shots.
Here’s a tactical breakdown of where their upcoming Wimbledon final might be lost or won for either player.
Kerber will have to make sure she utilises her lefty serve wisely because breaking Williams will be no mean feat.
Kerber is an excellent returner and leads all the players in the ladies' main draw with her percentage of returns in - 88 per cent.
Her 44 per cent mark of return points won against the first serve is the highest among all players who have made it past the third round and her 61 per cent success rate in return points against the second serve is far superior to Williams’ 51 percent.
The Championships 2018: Times Kerber has broken opponents' serve
The Championshps 2018: Times Williams has broken opponents' serve
In their final match-up, the return will, naturally, be a huge factor, with Kerber being the best returner Williams has faced, and Williams having the best serve Kerber will have confronted.
In their previous eight meetings, the player who has won the first set has gone on to win the match.
At this year's Championships, Williams and Kerber have each recovered once from being a set down, with the former doing so against Camila Giorgi in the quarter-finals and Kerber pulling off the comeback in her second round match against 18-year-old Claire Liu.
It goes without saying, though, that whoever makes the stronger start to the match has a bigger chance of getting the win.
Kerber's not-so-secret weapon
Kerber’s tactics will obviously involve trying to move Williams around, which the statistics show is something the American has not done so much at this year's Championships. If Kerber capitalises on her dangerous lefty down-the-line forehand, and uses it to attack, she can force Williams to run on the backhand side and open up the court.
Williams can overpower the majority of her opponents, but against Kerber she must be prepared to hit the extra shot and not become frustrated if her intended winners come back with interest from the other side of the net.
She has been winning 80 per cent of points on her first serve but that rate could go down against a returner like Kerber.
The numbers above show that Kerber has played many more longer rallies than Williams, which is understandable given their styles, but the American should expect her stats to skew more towards the lengthier rally categories in the final.
Patience will definitely be a virtue against someone like Kerber.
It is obvious that on a surface like grass, Kerber must think aggressively if she wants to win.
In the one match in which she struggled, against Liu in round two, she took a back seat for a set and a half and it wasn’t until she took matters into her own hands that she managed to turn things around.
As Rafael Nadal pointed out in the Spanish part of his latest press conference, point construction and tactics are less important on grass than they are on slower surfaces, because there isn’t much time to build a point. The player who successfully executes the more aggressive game plan will have the edge in the final.
One thing Kerber did well in her Australian Open final win against Williams in 2016 was to bring her opponent to the net, then find her target with the passing shot.
Williams, the 23-time Grand Slam champion, will no doubt be wary of that.