Angelique Kerber is into her first Grand Slam final after defeating Johanna Konta 7–5, 6–2 in the Australian Open semifinals on Thursday. Her next task? Defending Steffi Graf’s record of 22 major titles against No. 1 Serena Williams, who will tie the German’s mark with a win in Saturday’s title match.
For now, Kerber is reveling in her win.
“It feels good. No, I mean, it feels really good,” she said after the match. “I knew today I must go out there and play again good, be aggressive. I knew also that she beat a lot of good players this two weeks and it will be not easy. But I handle it and I handle also my nerves actually in the beginning of the match. It feels really good to be for my first time in the final.”
The 28-year-old German upset No. 14-seed Victoria Azarenka in the quarterfinals on Wednesday and bounced back just a day later to end Konta’s dream run, which saw her become the first British woman to reach a Grand Slam semifinal since 1983 and the first to reach the Australian Open semifinals since 1977.
Kerber jumped out to a 3–0 lead in the opening set on Thursday before Konta fought her way back, winning four straight games. But Kerber finally stopped her momentum, using the aggressive game that lifted her over Azarenka and other opponents to break Konta’s serve and take a 6–5 lead. The German served out the set, winning in 49 minutes.
The No. 7-seed broke Konta's serve to start the second set and again in the fifth game to take a 4–1 lead. Kerber served out the match after one hour and 22 minutes. Unforced errors proved to be the key stat in the match: Konta finished with 36 while her opponent had a cleaner game, finishing with just 11 unforced errors.
“She's an incredibly tough player. I think she's one of the, if not the most consistent player on the tour. And that's no secret,” Konta said. “She really makes every single ball possible and makes you work for every single point. She definitely played with that little bit more experience than I did. But I really enjoyed my experience out there….I'm really happy how I was able to keep pushing my threshold, as well, keep gaining lots of new experiences, and just keep improving.”
Kerber was playing in her third career Grand Slam semifinal—and she will play in her first Slam final on Saturday—but she almost didn’t make it past the first round, facing a match point against Misaki Doi in her opening match before prevailing 6–7(4), 7–6(6), 6–3.
“I had a lot of ups; I had a lot of downs. I think the final [comes] to the right moment,” Kerber said. “I think I'm ready for it because I have a lot of experience on the last few years. I beat top players. I am a top player right now.
“The work pays off, I think. I was working very hard in the last few years. Here I am. I'm in the final for my first time. I will for sure trying to enjoy it.”
In Saturday’s final Kerber will face Serena Williams, who defeated Agnieszka Radwanska 6–0, 6–4 in the first semifinals match of the day to advance to her seventh Australian Open final. She now owns a 9–0 record against the Pole, who lost the opening set in 21 minutes.
“I think she started unbelievable, with such a power and speed. I was just standing there kind of watching her playing,” Radwanska said after the match. “I had my little chance in second set, especially when it was 4-all. But otherwise just too good.”
After her win at the WTA Finals in October and a title in Shenzhen at the beginning of the month, Radwanska came into the tournament ranked No. 4. With her run to the semifinals in Melbourne, she’ll rise to No. 3 on Monday.
“It is inspiring, especially that I have very good run, I have so many good matches coming here. You go on court and you lose 6-love in 20 minutes. That's not what you expect,” Radwanska said of her match against Serena. “Everything was just too good, from her serve. When I was serving, everything is just going to your side with that kind of power, so deep that you cannot do anything.”
Serena will play in her 26th Grand Slam final against Kerber—she holds a 21–4 record in those matches—and will look to top her own record of becoming the oldest player to win a Grand Slam title in the Open Era, which she set at Wimbledon in July 2015.
“For me it's just a great thing to be in the final after taking such a long time off,” Serena said. “Whatever happens, I just kind of am proud of myself for reevaluating my game and trying to get better.”