Is a dramatic women’s tournament at the first Grand Slam of 2016 poised for a dramatic conclusion? Regardless of what happens in the championship match between Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber in Melbourne, history will be made around Steffi Graf’s name. #narratives
Will the American take yet another Grand Slam trophy — tying her with Graf’s 22, or will the German claim her first — and the first for Germany since Graf herself?
What’s the protocol here? Serena Williams in another Grand Slam final with another first-time finalist? The easy pick is Serena in two, particularly given her exceptional form — by even her own lofty standards — throughout the week. However, since I’m afraid all of my fellow #TTIslanders will be going with the same prediction, I’m going to go with Serena… in three.
Kerber will be the first left-handed opponent Serena has faced this week, and unlike similarly categorical counterpuncher Agnieszka Radwanska (whom the American annihilated), Kerber has the benefit of being able to inject massive amounts of pace into her groundstrokes. Given her position as an underdog in this match – as she was against Victoria Azarenka – Kerber might be able to catch fire at some point in the second set to steal it from Serena.
Plus, all my picks this fortnight have been awful, so what’s another if I’m wrong here? Cheers to an exciting women’s tournament this year.
Prediction: Williams in three sets
I picked Serena Williams to win her 22nd major before the fortnight in Melbourne got underway and now that the American has made it through the tournament without dropping a set, it would be foolish not to stick with that call.
After her tough first round against Camila Giorgi, the World No. 1 has looked in better Grand Slam-form than in all of 2015, brushing aside Maria Sharapova despite a dodgy start and steamrolling Agnieszka Radwanska for large parts of their semifinal encounter.
It will be interesting to see what Angelique Kerber can bring to the table in their seventh meeting. The sole win for the German came against Williams in Cincinnati 2012 — but ever since, the American hasn’t dropped a set against the No. 7 seed.
If Kerber gets a high percentage of first serves into play and finds the right mixture between offense and defense the way she did against Victoria Azarenka, the lefty might be able to make things interesting — maybe even competitive if the World No. 1’s nerves allow it. To go with anything other than a straight-set win for Williams doesn’t seem like the right option, however, particularly considering how well the six-time Australian Open champion has played in the past two weeks.
Prediction: Williams in two sets.
Serena Williams is looking to further her imprint in the record books: with her 22nd slam on the horizon, the World No. 1 will tie Steffi Graf.
Serena has yet to drop a set and has looked incredibly dominant on her road to the final. Kerber, by contrast, has had her struggles and will be playing in her first ever Grand Slam final.
Kerber is someone who can cause nightmares for most players with her resilient brand of defense and ability to take the ball on the rise. Unfortunately for her, Serena is one player whose pace she can’t use — as the ball will be out of her reach before she has an opportunity to counterpunch. Her serve can be a liability and Serena will be all over it.
I see this match having only one outcome: A Serena rout.
Prediction: Williams in two sets
To me, this final is more intriguing than any of the four on the women’s side at Grand Slams last year. Serena has played stunningly lights-out tennis through six matches and looks impossible to stop. Kerber overcame an incredible effort — and a match point — from Misaki Doi in the first round and hasn’t dropped a set since. Serena leads their head-to-head record 5-1, but the fact that Kerber has that one win (at Cincinnati in 2012 — just after Serena’s most dominant tournament ever at the London Olympics) should give her some belief that she can compete.
Serena has been historically great in slam finals over the course of her career, going 21-4 in her 25 appearances. In Australian Open finals, she’s 6-0. I definitely expect the trend to continue and for Serena to equal Steffi Graf’s slam total tonight, but I’m struggling to decide how I think this match will flow. It wouldn’t be a shock to see Serena start slow and Kerber playing well enough to capitalize; at the same time, we could hardly call it a surprise if this turned out to be a straightforward 6-3, 6-1. So what I’m saying is I have no idea how this is going to go.
My predictions: Serena in two sets, no bakery products in the scoreline, and an admirable performance from a first-time major finalist.
For all the doomsaying surrounding the women’s tournament this fortnight, this is a pretty solid final. There’s not much else one can say about Serena’s impeccable form this fortnight, and it’s incredible to see what Kerber’s done since being one point from defeat at the hands of Doi six round ago.
While Li Na famously saved match point en route to winning the title here two years ago, I don’t see Kerber doing the same unless a lot of things go right for her. If the World No. 1 shows off anything close to what she displayed in the opening set of her semifinal, then she’ll be holding another Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup in short order. However, if she comes out playing like she did in the second set, Kerber has more of the tools to take advantage. Williams has historically struggled with players like Kerber — true, classic counterpunchers who move well around the court — when she’s not playing at her best, and the German could be poised to take advantage of a mid-match dip in form.
Although she hasn’t dropped a set since the first round, Kerber’s been battle-tested; of course, she had the notable rally from 2-5*, 40-0 down in the second set vs. Azarenka, but also steadied herself after losing an early double-break advantage in the first set of her semifinal with Johanna Konta. Whether or not that will help Kerber in clutch moments in the final remains to be seen, but having that to draw upon can only be a good thing for the German in an otherwise unfamiliar situation.
I think at the end of the day, however, the World No. 1 will find an extra gear that Kerber can’t match — and take her 22nd Grand Slam title.
Prediction: Williams in three sets
What’s your prediction for the 2016 Australian Open women’s final? Sound off in the comments!