WIMBLEDON

Kerber hoping Graf inspiration will rub off in Saturday's final

Angelique Kerber has revealed advice from Steffi Graf has inspired her challenge to become the first German woman to win Wimbledon for 20 years.

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Kerber hoping Graf inspiration will rub off in Saturday's final
Clive Brunskill Getty Images

Angelique Kerber has revealed advice from Steffi Graf has inspired her challenge to become the first German woman to win Wimbledon for 20 years.

Kerber faces defending champion Serena Williams in Saturday's title match after defeating Venus Williams 6-4, 6-4 in the semi-finals on Thursday. The 28-year-old, who won her maiden Grand Slam crown at the Australian Open in January, has reached her first All England Club final, two decades after German great Graf lifted the Venus Rosewater Dish for the seventh and last time.

Kerber was only eight when Graf defeated Arantxa Sánchez Vicario in the 1996 final, but she recalls seeing many of her matches on television and has since sought out more of her classic victories on YouTube. So when Graf, who won 22 major titles, agreed to practice with Kerber and share some of her secrets it was a dream come true for the girl from Bremen.

“She was always an idol for me. I was always watching a lot of matches, also on YouTube sometimes. She was one of the best players in the world. She won so many Grand Slams”, Kerber said. “I met her few times. She's a great person. When you hit with her, she's still playing really well. Of course, when you talk with her, it's always a great honour. She just told me the last time that I'm on a good way, just believe in yourself, practice hard. She was really believing in me. I know that 20 years ago she won here the last time. Of course, I will try to be the next one to win here after Steffi”.

Until Kerber's run this year, Sabine Lisicki in 2013 was the only German woman to make the Wimbledon final and she ended in tears after being thrashed by Marion Bartoli. Kerber, in her second major title match, hopes to avoid a similar fate as she strives to emulate her shock victory over Serena in the Australian Open final.

“I think for sure I will go out there with a lot of confidence”, Kerber said.

“I'm, of course, excited to be in the Wimbledon final right now. That was always a dream for me to be one day on the Centre Court and playing the final. It's a little bit different than in Australia because that was my first Grand Slam final. Here I know what happen afterwards. I'm a little bit more relaxed than there”.

Having beaten one of the Williams sisters, the fourth seeded Kerber has set her sights on becoming the first player to defeat both of the American siblings in the same Grand Slam since Kim Clijsters at the 2009 US Open.

Kerber has raced through her six matches at Wimbledon without dropping a set, now has WTA tour-best 34 match wins in 2016 and is guaranteed to rise to a career-high second in the world rankings next week. But she knows Serena will be in determined mood as she bids to win a seventh Wimbledon title and equal Graf's Open era record of 22 Grand Slam crowns.

“It's a completely new match. We are playing on grass court”, Kerber continued. “She lost the final against me and I know she will go out and try everything to beat me. Like in Australia, I will try to show her, okay, I'm here to win the match, as well. I know I have to play my best tennis to beat her”.