Five factors that swung the Wimbledon final in Serena Williams’ favour

09 Jul 2016

Five factors that swung the Wimbledon final in Serena Williams’ favour

Serena Williams banished the demons created by defeat to Angelique Kerber in Melbourne, served brilliantly and learned from past travails

The mental battle

Serena Williams went into this match with demons to exorcise. Six months earlier, Kerber had ambushed the world No1 in the Australian Open final, preventing her from equalling Steffi Graf’s open-era record of 22 majors. Could the same opponent deny Williams that landmark again? In Melbourne, where she was gripped by anxiety, the burden of history clearly weighing heavy, her movement and anticipation were below par from the outset.

This time around Williams and her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, had clearly done their homework. From the first exchanges, it was apparent that the defending champion was ready for Kerber’s short, angled groundstrokes and cross-court passing shots, and her footwork flowed with a fluency that eluded her in Australia. Happy feet make for a happy mind and, with Kerber struggling to unsettle her from the back of the court, Williams was largely free of the anxiety that plagued her when the two last met.

That enabled her to produce some of her best tennis when it mattered, not least on serve. Kerber was not overawed by the occasion and produced some exquisite shots, particularly off her free-flowing forehand side. But she was never allowed to play with the abandon she displayed in Melbourne, where she had to battle back from match point down in the opening round and thereafter went about her business with the unruffled air of a woman with nothing to lose. This time the serenity was all Serena’s.

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