Serena Williams aims to match Steffi Graf’s record of 22 career Grand Slam titles in the Australian Open final on Saturday in Melbourne, so it’s only fitting that German Angelique Kerber is the opponent standing in her way.
“She told me, congrats, and she is happy for me, and good luck in the finals,” Kerber said of her message from Graf ahead of Saturday’s final.
After defeating Victoria Azarenka in the quarterfinals and Johanna Konta in the semifinals on Thursday, the 28-year-old will play in her first Grand Slam final against Serena, who is chasing her seventh Australian Open title. Kerber says she’ll find motivation from her fellow countrywoman and idol.
“For sure when I was growing up, I was watching Steffi ….she taught me actually that I'm on a good way and try to believe in myself,” Kerber said. “I think when you ask a lot of people, I think most will say, ‘Okay, Serena will win.’ But this is the challenge I can take. I go out there, I don't have nothing to lose. I don't have so much pressure like she has.”
Serena leads their head-to-head record 5–1 and the No. 1-seed won their most recent meeting in the Stanford final 7–6(1), 6–3. Kerber’s only win came in the quarterfinals in Cincinnati in 2012, where she beat Serena in straight sets 6–4, 6–4.
“I thought she played unbelievable in that match. That's something that I'll never forget,” Serena said of the win. “I just remember her serving really well, her moving well, her being determined to win that. I think from then on out I've been really focused that she's someone that I really, and everyone, has to take very serious.”
Kerber will be the first left-handed player Serena has faced in Melbourne and the American isn’t looking past Kerber’s quarterfinals victory over 14th-seeded Azarenka.
“She took out a really tough opponent in Victoria. You can't underestimate Kerber,” she said. “She's been very consistent this year already. She's proven that she wants to take her game to the next level.”
Serena is coming off a dominating 6–0, 6–4 win over Agnieszka Radwanska in the semifinals and will play in her 26th Grand Slam final against Kerber. She holds a 21–4 record in those matches and will also 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.
“I would say this is probably the best Slam I've played in a year, and I've won a lot in a year,” Serena said. “I kind of relish every win and every final and every match now. I think maybe in the past I didn't as much. I was just like going through the motions. Even though I was super excited, I just feel like now it's even more exciting.”