There are several interesting story lines set to play themselves out in the semifinals of the 2021 Wimbledon Championships. World #1 Ashleigh Barty is looking to secure a second Grand Slam title and in doing so stamp out any doubt that she deserves to be at the top of the women’s game. Also in the mix is Aryna Sabalenka. The Belarusian has finally broken her run of underperforming in the four biggest tournaments in tennis. Then there’s Karolina Pliskova, a former World #1 who has had a mostly dismal season so far this year. The Czech now looks imperious and will be desperate to finally get her hands on a Grand Slam Trophy. Lastly, there is the intriguing and exciting third rise of Angelique Kerber.
Two Years of Relative Irrelevance Ends Abruptly With Grass Court Dominance.
The German star has somewhat wallowed in mediocrity over the last two years, at least by her standards anyway. She made little significant headway in Grand Slams in 2019 and 2020 after winning two of the four in 2018. Last year in particular she looked short on confidence and unsure of her game. There were signs of that changing at the beginning of this year, with more aggression and confidence creeping their way back into her game. However, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who expected Kerber to go on the grass court tear she has put together over the past three weeks. A look at her recent title run in her home country gives you some idea of where this breath-taking run of form began.
First title in Over Two Years in Bad Homburg Paves Way for Scintillating Wimbledon Run.
Kerber is currently on a ten-match winning streak on grass. She beat top players in Amanda Anisimova and Petra Kvitova on her way to her first title since 2018 in Bad Homburg. The run seemingly came out of nowhere as she has 8 wins and 9 losses across all other surfaces so far this year. Nonetheless, she now possesses a brilliant win streak and a second grass court title courtesy of her victory in Bad Homburg However, the athletic German now looks every bit the player she was from 2015 to 2018. In that time frame she picked up nine titles, three of which were Grand Slams. At her best, Kerber can and has beaten anyone. In fact, two of her Grand Slam wins came by way of beating arguably the greatest woman to ever play the game.
Finals Wins Over the Best in the World Show Kerber is More than Ready to Take on the Top Dog
In 2016, Kerber beat a prime Serena Williams in three sets to capture her maiden Grand Slam title at the Australian Open. She again beat a prime Williams in 2018 at Wimbledon, the all-time greats favourite tournament. In between those two wins she beat Karolina Pliskova to win the US Open at a time when Pliskova was on her way to becoming the best player in the world. Those wins show that Kerber playing at her best is capable of beating anyone. She is yet to face such elite opposition so far in Wimbledon, but some impressive victories on her way to the semifinals will have her full of belief ahead of Thursday’s clash with top seed and world #1 Ashleigh Barty.
It is perhaps easily forgotten that of the four women remaining at Wimbledon, Kerber is by far the most experienced when it comes to the latter stages of Grand Slams. The German has a fourth finals appearance as well as three other semifinals to her name. Only Barty has won a Grand Slam out of the remaining three and Pliskova has made just one final and four semifinals. Kerber’s experience could well prove telling in decisive moments in the two matches she still needs to win to lift the trophy. Also working in her favour is that she is considered the underdog in her half of the draw so there is far less pressure on her than there is Barty.
Wimbledon is Barty’s to Lose but There for the Taking if Kerber Finds Her Best
Earlier this week I outlined why the 2021 Wimbledon Championships are Barty’s to lose and that remains true. Nonetheless, the fact that Kerber has beaten Barty twice previously should fill her with immense confidence ahead of Thursday. Add to that the fact that she has winning records against both Pliskova and Sabalenka and all of a sudden the German doesn’t seem such a long shot to win it all. Kerber at her best is one of the top players of the last six or seven years. She hasn’t found that level consistently enough to rack up as many Grand Slams as she would like, but she looks to be finding that form again here. If she is, this could well be the third rise of Angelique Kerber, the German brick wall with three major titles to her name. Only time will tell if it will be four come Saturday.
Main Photo from Getty.