LONDON (Reuters) - All the talk since Wimbledon began has been about the return to the Tour of 23-times Grand Slam champion Serena Williams after the American great became a mother last September.
Williams famously won the 2017 Australian Open while pregnant with daughter Alexis Olympia before going on maternity leave and making a tentative comeback in March this year.
Germany’s Angelique Kerber, who will try to prevent Williams winning an eighth Wimbledon title on Saturday, never went away but she too is making a comeback of sorts.
When, in 2016, Kerber stunned Williams to win the Australian Open and beat Karolina Pliskova in the U.S. Open final, losing to Williams in the Wimbledon final in-between, it seemed she had marked herself out as true rival to the American.
Then it all started unravelling, as expectation weighed her down and the added demands of being a global superstar began to impact on what she does best.
Having begun 2017 as world number one she managed to reach only one Tour final last year and ended it ranked 21st.
Since hiring coach Wim Fissette — formerly with Kim Clijsters, Simona Halep and Victoria Azarenka — at the start of the year, Kerber’s trajectory has been upward again.
She reached the Australian Open semi-final and equalled her best run at Roland Garros by reaching the last eight.
On Thursday the 30-year-old left-hander played an immaculate match to beat Jelena Ostapenko 6-3 6-3 and set up a second Wimbledon final against the 36-year-old Williams.
“I think it is a completely new match. We both learnt a lot. She’s coming back. For me, I’m coming back from 2017,” Kerber said.
“I can’t compare this year with 2016 or 17. I’m really proud to be back in the Wimbledon final, especially after last year where things weren’t like I was expecting.
“When I start this year, a goal was to be playing good in majors, in the Grand Slams, and to reach finals again.
“It’s a great feeling.”
With experience of three Grand Slam finals, two against Williams, she will not be cowed on Saturday.
But she has a healthy respect for the American.
“She’s always going out there to win the matches, it doesn’t matter against who she is playing,” Kerber said.
“She’s a fighter. She’s a champion. That’s why she is there where she is now.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Catherine Evans