Redemption for Angelique Kerber as she defeats Jelena Ostapenko to return to the Wimbledon final

Hannah Wilks in Wimbledon 12 Jul 2018
  • Angelique Kerber will face Serena Williams in the final of Wimbledon 2018
  • Kerber defeated Jelena Ostapenko 6-3, 6-3 to set up a rematch of the 2016 final
  • Watch and bet on tennis live from Wimbledon at bet365 > live streaming > tennis (geo-restrictions apply; funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify)
Angelique Kerber in action against Jelena Ostapenko in the Wimbledon semifinals

Angelique Kerber beats Jelena Ostapenko to set up Wimbledon final rematch with Serena Williams.

Runner-up to the American in 2016, Kerber kept her cool in the face of Jelena Ostapenko’s explosive shotmaking to record a 6-3, 6-3 victory in the earlier semifinal.

Experience and professionalism were the keynotes of Kerber’s victory over Ostapenko. The German left-hander, contesting her third Wimbledon semifinal, had showcased her improved serve and her ability to maintain a consistently high level while a volatile opponent ebbed and flared when she beat Daria Kasatkina in the quarterfinals, and the same qualities came to the fore as she faced Ostapenko. 

The two had never played before but Kerber, as with everybody else, would have been very familiar with the way that the Latvian blasted her way to the French Open title in 2017 despite being unseeded and ranked outside the world’s top 40, repeatedly coming from back from a set down in the process – and with Ostapenko’s lack of recourse when her audacious shotmaking fails to yield dividends. After a bright start by the Latvian saw her reel off 12 winners (and eight unforced errors) in the first three games, Kerber had to save break point herself at 2-3, which she did with a superb ace, and attacked Ostapenko’s second serve at 3-3 to secure the first break of the match when the first-time semifinalist missed consecutive backhands.

Once Kerber, who served at 89% in the first set to her opponent’s 50%, consolidated the break, it was one-way traffic from there. In her last two matches, against Aliaksandra Sasnovich and Dominika Cibulkova, Ostapenko had managed to erase first-set deficits in the scoreline and turn the match her way, but she was up against a different calibre of opponent in Kerber. Two unplayable serves from deuce saw Kerber consolidate her break to lead 5-3, and the German kept tremendous depth on the ball to set up break points on Ostapenko’s serve in the next game, converting for a one-set lead when Ostapenko double-faulted.

A deft drop shot from the German set up break points in Ostapenko’s first service game of the second set, converted when the Latvian netted her backhand down the line, and Kerber had won six games in a row to lead 3-0 in the second set before Ostapenko stopped the rot. She had a chance when she pressed to 30-30 on Kerber’s serve at 3-1, but consecutive backhand errors and more smart serving from Kerber saw her maintain the break, and panicky errors from Ostapenko in the next game saw her go down a double break, 1-5. 

That second break proved crucial as Ostapenko threw caution to the winds and broke back as Kerber served for the match before holding to keep it alive with a game which reminded the Centre Court crowd just exactly what she could bring in terms of crunching power, and the Latvian had break point as Kerber served for the match a second time. Calamitously, though, Ostapenko missed consecutive second-serve returns – and then a third on match point.

Kerber had spoken of the significance of accepting, when facing Kasatkina, that her opponent would play tremendously well and make life difficult for her, and the same attitude was evident against Ostapenko on Thursday. It sounds like simple, self-help advice – don’t worry about what you can’t control – but when you are facing a player who can rip something you want so desperately away from you, and when you yourself are a person who has struggled with self-doubt throughout your career, it’s far more easily said than done.

‘I was expecting that she [would] play like she played from the beginning, really hard, pushing me back, and I was trying to stay in my focus and play every single point because she started really well. I was just trying to find my rhythm and take my chances when I had [them],’ Kerber said afterwards.  
‘And in the second set it was at the end a little bit tricky because you never know what's going on - she is down and then she's coming stronger back, so I was trying to stay in the moment.’

Kerber had shown barely a flicker of emotion during the match, but she beamed widely after closing out the 6-3, 6-3 victory, with more than a hint of shy but immensely justifiable pride in herself. 

The German had to suffer through an agonizing season in 2017 and endure constant questioning of her champion’s credentials after she struggled to back up her career-best season of 2016, which saw her win the Australian Open and the US Open as well as finishing runner-up at Wimbledon. But by making it back to the Wimbledon final, and doing it in a manner which reeked of quiet self-belief, is a hugely impressive statement.

‘I'm really proud to be back in the Wimbledon final, especially after last year when things didn't go like I was expecting,’ Kerber said.  ‘To be here again, it was a goal when I started this year, to play good in the majors, in the Grand Slams and to reach the finals again. It's a great feeling. And it's still one more match to go, but yeah, I think for me it's great.’

Hopes of an all-German final were crushed, however, by a performance of unplayable brilliance from Serena Williams, who defeated Julia Goerges 6-2, 6-4 in the second semifinal. 

Kerber and Williams will play for the second time in the Wimbledon final on Saturday.

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Redemption for Angelique Kerber as she defeats Jelena Ostapenko to return to the Wimbledon final

Angelique Kerber brushes aside her own doubts and the shotmaking of Jelena Ostapenko to set up a Wimbledon final rematch against Serena Williams

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