ESPN News Services
LONDON — Times have changed, opponents have come and gone, and Serena Williams keeps vying for Grand Slam titles.
The 36-year-old Williams, who did not play Wimbledon last year while taking a leave of absence to have her first child, reached a Grand Slam final for the 12th straight season by beating Julia Goerges 6-2, 6-4 at the All England Club on Thursday.
“It’s crazy. I don’t even know how to feel,” Williams said after the match. “I literally didn’t expect to do this well in my fourth tournament back in 16 months. I just feel like when I don’t have anything to lose, I can just play so free. That’s kind of what I’m doing.”
When Williams left the game soon after claiming her 23rd Grand Slam at the 2017 Australian Open, it appeared her streak might be under threat.
That’s not the case. She will vie for her eighth Wimbledon title against German Angelique Kerber on Saturday in a repeat of the 2016 Wimbledon final, which Williams won in straight sets.
The 11th-seeded Kerber beat Jelena Ostapenko 6-3, 6-3 in the other semifinal on Centre Court on Thursday.
Goerges, the 13th seed, was playing in her first Grand Slam semifinal. Williams has won all four of their encounters.
For Kerber, it was clear right from the opening game how things were going to go against Ostapenko. She was not going to dictate or control much. Instead, Kerber employed spectacular defense and solid, steady play, while letting Ostapenko determine the outcome of nearly every point.
It worked. The 11th-seeded Kerber reached her second final at the All England Club by avoiding too many mistakes and using a seven-game run to seize control of the match.
“These are the matches I was working for as a young kid,” Kerber said, “and to stand here again in the final at Wimbledon is great.”
Kerber is a former No. 1 and a two-time major champion, both coming in 2016 at the Australian Open and US Open. That was also the year she lost to Williams in the Wimbledon final.
The left-handed Kerber was mainly a passive participant in the early going against Ostapenko. That first game consisted of eight points: Three were unforced errors by Ostapenko, including a double-fault to begin the proceedings; the other five were winners by her, including a 100 mph ace to close the hold.
Five games in, Ostapenko led 3-2, and the numbers were still tilted toward her. She had 14 winners and 10 unforced errors, while Kerber had three winners and — this was key — zero unforced errors.
There were no drawn-out points in the early going, no lengthy baseline exchanges, essentially because Ostapenko wouldn’t allow it. The Latvian plays an aggressive brand of first-strike tennis that carried her to the 2017 French Open title as an unseeded 20-year-old.
Kerber, in contrast, bides her time, working the back of the court to get everything back over the net, often kneeling to get low enough to reach shots.
Eventually, Kerber’s style ruled the day. She went on a half-hour run in which she took the last four games of the first set and took a 3-0 lead in the second. Ostapenko’s strokes were missing, and she grew increasingly frustrated, slapping a thigh after a miss or leaning forward and putting her hands on her knees after others. By the time she flubbed a backhand while falling behind 5-1 in the second, she dropped her racket and screamed.
It took Kerber two tries to serve out the victory, getting broken to 5-2. But unlike in the quarterfinals, when she needed seven match points to win, this time it required only two, with the match ending — fittingly enough — on a forehand by Ostapenko that sailed wide.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.