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Serena Williams prepares for catch-up with Julia Görges in Wimbledon semi

The Guardian logo The Guardian 11/07/2018 Simon Cambers at Wimbledon
Serena Williams and her coach Patrick Mouratoglou head for the practice courts on the eve of her semi-final with Julia Goerges.: Serena Williams and her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, head for the practice courts on the eve of her semi-final with Julia Görges. © /BPI/Rex/Shutterstock Serena Williams and her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, head for the practice courts on the eve of her semi-final with Julia Görges.

After a tournament dominated by shocks the four remaining women will square off on Thursday for a place in the Wimbledon final. One of them will surely go down in history as the greatest player to play the women’s game – if not tennis itself – two others have already tasted grand slam success, and the fourth is playing the tennis of her life. The cream has risen to the top.

If a scriptwriter is not already working on a film for Serena Williams, super-mum, then someone had better get started soon. A couple of months shy of her 37th birthday and just 10 months after giving birth to her first child, Williams is back, two wins from an eighth Wimbledon singles title and what would be a record-equalling 24th major. Her opponent on Thursday is Julia Görges, the 13th seed, from Germany, who is in her first grand slam semi-final. The contrast is huge, the rewards even bigger.

Related: Roger Federer stunned by Kevin Anderson in five-set Wimbledon thriller

Considering it is only a month since Williams beat Görges in straight sets at the French Open, it is asking a lot for the German to upset the odds here, not least since Williams seems to have moved up a few levels, in terms of both fitness and form. Having eventually pulled out in Paris before her fourth‑round match with Maria Sharapova because of a pectoral injury, she has been gradually winding up her serve, round by round. If one 122mph delivery she sent down at Camila Giorgi in the quarter-final – after the Italian tried to delay her serve – was anything to go by, she is approaching peak strength but as always she is aware that things can change.

“I played Julia in the French [but] that was four or five weeks ago,” Williams said. “That doesn’t matter. This is a whole new match, it’s a new surface, it’s everything. We’re starting from zero. I’m going to go out there and just do what I can, do my best and see what happens.”

In terms of experience it is no contest. Williams will be playing her 35th grand slam semi-final. For all her talent the German had never been past the fourth round in any of them. Williams has won each of them at least three times. Perhaps the only question mark is fatigue.

This is only her fourth tournament back since she returned in March. Having suffered a pulmonary embolism soon after childbirth, she was confined to bed for the first six weeks of her daughter’s life. That she is even back playing at all, at this stage, is remarkable but at some point it could catch up with her.

If Görges manages what would be an almighty upset, then we could be looking at an all-German final, something that has not happened in any grand slam event since Michael Stich upset Boris Becker at Wimbledon in 1991. Angelique Kerber, the No11 seed, takes on the Latvian Jelena Ostapenko, seeded 12, in the first semi‑final.It promises to be an intriguing match, a contrast in styles between the out-and-out aggressor in Ostapenko and the ultimate retriever and competitor in Kerber.

The pair have never played one another but Kerber, runner-up here two years ago and twice a grand slam title winner in 2016, will know all about the threat Ostapenko offers. The 21-year-old Latvian, who won the French Open last year, hits the ball as hard as anyone, her flat groundstrokes sometimes struck at such acute angles they almost defy belief. A former junior champion at Wimbledon, Ostapenko has not dropped a set and after finding it all too much to handle when she tried to defend the French Open title last month, the shackles are off here.

“Really, I don’t feel any pressure,” she said. “I’m just going out there and enjoying it, probably because at the French Open a couple weeks ago I had so much pressure. It’s now all gone. I’m just enjoying the moment.”

Kerber, meanwhile, has looked back to her battling best this fortnight, into her seventh grand slam semi‑final for the loss of only one set. The former world No 1 suffered a dip in form in 2017, when she struggled to cope with the expectations, but seems to have recovered her confidence this year, with a semi-final effort at the Australian Open followed by a quarter‑final run at the French Open.

Her coach, Wim Fissette, a man who has worked with Kim Clijsters, Victoria Azarenka and Johanna Konta, has restored her belief. “She has had a very consistent year, quarter-finals almost every tournament, Paris as well, which was a big step for her,” he told the Guardian. “Coming on to the grass she had a good physical preparation, she played a good tournament in Eastbourne, lost in the semis with one match point. She is where she wants to be.”

An Ostapenko-Görges final would ensure a first-time champion but, given the willpower of their opponents, it would be a surprise if Williams and Kerber are not facing off in the final here, as they did in 2016.


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