On Saturday at the Australian Open, No. 1-seed Serena Williams will take on No. 7-seed Angelique Kerber in the title match. Serena has won five of the six previous meetings against Kerber, including the last four. Serena has a big edge on serve—especially 1st serve—in terms of power and effectiveness, while Kerber's biggest strength has been her return of serve and her consistency.
So far in Melbourne, Serena's backhand has been her less effective side—she's hit 22 backhand winners and 45 backhand unforced errors. Look for Kerber to use her lefty slices and spins to get at Serena's backhand and try to test her patience and consistency. When Serena is vulnerable it's usually her 2nd serve and errors from the baseline that cause her problems. Kerber has to hope that Serena has an off-day on her serve, which will allow her to extend the rallies and test Serena's consistency.
There are two major challenges for Kerber. The first is to withstand the first strikes from Serena, as she takes control with powerful serves and aggressive returns and puts her opponents on the defensive immediately. If Kerber can withstand those big blows, her second challenge will be to try to take charge of the points without going for too much and losing control of her own game. That's a pretty fine tightrope to try to traverse—and it's why Serena doesn't lose very often.
Serena Williams's highlights:
• Dominant 1st serve: 46 aces, 40% unreturned, 83% first serve points won, held 47 of 51 service games, top speed 126 mph
• Strong return game: 45% won returning 1st serves, 61% won returning 2nd serves, 29 clean return winners, 26 breaks in 48 games
• Lost just 27 games in six matches
Angelique Kerber's highlights:
• Very strong return game: 88% hit back in play, 44% won returning 1st serves, 64% won returning 2nd serves, 33 breaks in 63 games
• 74 forehand winners and 39 backhand winners, balanced attack from the baseline
• Ran over 10,000 meters, more than double what Serena ran to reach the final
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