Kerber ends all-Williams final at Wimbledon

Associated Press
Angelique Kerber celebrates after beating Venus Williams. She now faces Serena Williams for the title.

London — Instead of the ninth all-Williams final at a Grand Slam tournament, there will be a rematch of another sort to determine the Wimbledon title.

And so as Serena Williams again stands one victory from her record-tying 22nd major title, she will need to beat a woman who already stopped her once this year in that pursuit, Angelique Kerber.

After Williams needed all of 48 minutes to overwhelm Elena Vesnina, 6-2, 6-0, at the All England Club, older sister Venus failed to join in the family fun, losing to Kerber, 6-4, 6-4, in Thursday’s second semifinal.

Since winning her sixth Wimbledon trophy a year ago to raise her career count at Grand Slam events to 21, Serena has come close to pulling even with Steffi Graf at 22 — the most in the Open era, which began in 1968 (Margaret Court’s career mark is 24).

But Williams was surprisingly beaten by Roberta Vinci in the U.S. Open semifinals last September, then by Kerber in the Australian Open final in January, and by Garbine Muguruza in the French Open final last month.

Reaching the final at each of a year’s first three majors might sound good to other players.

Not Williams.

“For anyone else in this whole planet, it would be a wonderful accomplishment,” Williams said. “For me, it’s about, obviously, holding the trophy and winning, which would make it a better accomplishment for me. For me, it’s not enough. But I think that’s what makes me different. That’s what makes me Serena.”

Yes, she is one of a kind.

When a reporter asked what she makes of it when others talk about her as one of history’s greatest female athletes, the reply is: “I prefer the word, one of the greatest ‘athletes’ of all time.”

Hard to argue.

And the case will be even stronger if she can do what she couldn’t in Melbourne: solve Kerber’s left-handed game.

“I know,” Kerber said, “she will go out and try everything to beat me right now.”

That Australian Open victory gave Kerber her first Grand Slam title in her first Grand Slam final.

She insisted Thursday she’s more relaxed and more confident on court thanks to that moment.

It didn’t necessarily look that way at the outset against Venus, who at 36 was the oldest major semifinalist since Martina Navratilova was 37 at the All England Club in 1994.

Venus is a five-time Wimbledon champion but hadn’t been to the semifinals since she was runner-up to Serena seven years ago.

“Steps away from making it to the end,” Venus said. “That’s the position I want to be in, is playing in the semifinals, playing for a space in the final.”

But against Kerber, Venus was broken the first four times she served.

She never recovered.

“A very shaky match from her; she was fighting hard, but she was frustrated,” said Venus’ coach, David Witt. “Her concentration was up-and-down. The focus was up-and-down. That made her game up-and-down.”

Perhaps the accumulated court time during this fortnight simply took a toll on Venus, who revealed in 2011 she had Sjongren’s syndrome, which can cause fatigue and joint pain.

She was a half-step slow to some balls, was breathing heavily after longer points, and wound up with 21 unforced errors, 10 more than Kerber.

“I was trying to (move) her, as well,” the fourth-seeded Kerber said. “That was the plan.”

After a running cross-court forehand winner capped the 19-stroke exchange that ended her victory, Kerber tossed aside her racket and dropped to her knees at the baseline.

That match managed to be more competitive than what transpired earlier, which more closely resembled a training session for No. 1 Serena — except she probably gets more of a workout when she practices.

“I couldn’t do anything today,” Vesnina said.

There would be plenty more of that feeling from Vesnina, a two-time Wimbledon runner-up in doubles who later Thursday went out in the quarterfinals of that event and lost to Serena a second time. The Williams-Williams pairing beat Vesnina and Ekaterina Makarova, 7-6 (1), 4-6, 6-2.