In her latest column, Martina Navratilova looks forward to the climax of Wimbledon 2018 and provides insight into how the German can reverse the outcome of the 2016 final.
Martina Navratilova
July 14, 2018

Angelique Kerber knows she can hang with Serena Williams in a Grand Slam final. She's been here before. What is more, she has the experience of having beaten Serena in a major final and most people can't say that. So Kerber is going to have the belief, which could play a big part in the 2018 Wimbledon final.

Kerber's Grand Slam final victory over Serena came at the 2016 Australian Open. Later that season, they played in the Wimbledon final, and Serena won in straight sets, but they were two tight sets, and I believe that Kerber is a better player now than she was two years ago. 

Read more: Saturday's Wimbledon Final Countdown

I'm sure Kerber won't care about all the history on the line for Serena, with the American trying to win an eighth Wimbledon title which would put her level with Margaret Court's all-time record of 24 majors. That certainly is a major motivation for Serena but I am pretty sure Kerber will only care about her own personal history - the possibility of winning her first Wimbledon title. 

Gallery: Relive Serena and Kerber's previous meetings

You know that Kerber is going to be fired up. All of last season Kerber was not even close to the level that she achieved in 2016 when she finished as the World No.1. It seemed as though the pressure got to her and she dropped out of the top 20. Now she looks like a different player again, a player we saw in 2016. We don't know exactly what happened to Kerber last season, and maybe she doesn't either, other than how it was a very emotional year for her, but she has certainly rediscovered her tennis in 2018 and she has been playing much better this season.

Serena Williams beat Angelique Kerber in straight sets in the Wimbledon final two years ago (Getty)
Serena Williams beat Angelique Kerber in the Wimbledon final two years ago (Getty)

Going into their second Wimbledon final, I'm sure Kerber will have a pretty good gameplan against Serena. It will be more a matter of whether she is playing well enough and whether her execution is spot on. But even if all goes well, Kerber will still be at the mercy of the biggest-ever weapon in women’s tennis: Serena’s serve. Williams has been serving at a high percentage - at 64 per cent for the tournament so far - and she has been winning a huge percentage of those balls, with an 80 per cent success rate in her first six matches. But Kerber returns better than most and she gets more balls back into play than anyone, and she needs to do that to make Williams work hard for her service games.

More than anything, Kerber will need to hold serve. She's not going to get that many breaks no matter how well she returns so she needs to play really well in her own service games. She'll also need to defend well, and to keep Serena on the move. That's what she did really well in her semifinal against Jelena Ostapenko - she didn't let the Latvian get set for her shots, changing the direction all the time and keeping her opponent off balance. That's why Ostapenko made so many unforced errors. Kerber never went back to the same spot twice, unless she absolutely had to. 

Read more: Kerber thinks outside the box

She was always changing the direction of the ball and I think she will be trying to do the same with Serena. Of course, that's easier said than done but it's an absolute must. Kerber needs to ensure that Serena's not waiting for the ball for five minutes before hitting it. 

What has impressed me most of all about Serena's game this fortnight has been her consistency. She has improved her groundstroke game tremendously and is moving as well as ever. Everything else is pretty much the same as before she became a mother but Williams has cut down on the unforced errors. She's got more shape on the ball and she has been really great at picking her time to go for the bigger shot. She's really cleaned up her game and there were so few errors in her semifinal. Serena used to give her opponents cheap points here and there but does not do that any more. 

Gallery: Serena's 23 Grand Slam victories

Kerber will know that Serena will be more nervous than usual. But if Serena doesn't land her 24th Grand Slam here, she could get it at the US Open in a few weeks. And if not she will have a few more cracks at it in 2019. 

For Kerber, it's a different kind of pressure as who knows whether she will play in a Wimbledon final again? We all have pressures and for different reasons. It's how you deal with the pressure that counts and Serena has done an amazing job during her career. She gets nervous - she's spoken about that - but she deals with it. She kind of overcomes that emotionally during her matches; you can feel that. She digs her heels in and gets in the trenches. Let's see if Kerber can deal with that - this could be a great final.