Angelique Kerber vs Ash Barty: Expect fireworks in Wimbledon semi-final battle of the comeback queens

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·3-min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
 (ES Composite)
(ES Composite)

Angelique Kerber need only look at the replica of the Venus Rosewater Dish at her home as a reminder of past glories, and how she’s needed reminding.

The dominant force of the women’s game at the time Ash Barty decided to end her hiatus from the sport after a cricketing spell in the Big Bash League with Brisbane Heat, the thought at 33 of also walking away from the sport must surely have crossed her mind.

Tennis in the Covid lockdown era has not brought out the best in the German, early exits throughout the clay-court season preceded by a similar lack of success on hard courts from Melbourne to Miami. And yet her safety blanket of the grass has rekindled the Kerber of old.

Against Karolina Muchova in yesterday’s quarter-finals, she was back somewhere near to her imperious best, crouched low, her wide reach and heavy hitting leaving her Czech opponent increasingly out of ideas.

The signs had been coming. Her title in Hamburg – also on grass – last month was her first since beating Serena Williams in the 2018 Wimbledon final. And while Barty is a step-up, her career record against the Australian is 3-2 in her favour.

“The last few months, it was really tough,” she said. “But I never stopped believing in myself. For me, I love to play tennis and I love this sport, to go out there and play again in front of the fans. I think this gives me like that push to playing my best tennis right now.

The win over Muchova was her 80th on grass, a surface on which she has never played Barty. It is a match-up of contrasting styles making it difficult to predict quite how this sixth career meeting will pan out.

“I’m really looking forward to playing against Ash,” said Kerber. “She played so great the last few months, years. I know that I have to play my best tennis and she will push me to that, to give everything out there.

“It’s a great feeling to already have the trophy at home. When I was a kid I really looked forward to playing this tournament… and playing my best tennis here. Now I’m back after a really tough time.”

Barty goes in as the favourite, the player she defeated in the quarter-finals, Ajla Tomljanovic saying quite simply “she’s the one to beat” after being dismantled by her countrywoman in barely an hour.

The hip joint that forced her out of French Open was the partial unknown going onto the grass and, on the evidence of five matches to date, it has not held her back.

On her return to tennis, it was perhaps befitting that Kerber partly acted as the benchmark, Barty pushing her close in three sets in Brisbane but eventually coming up short.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

“I remember coming off the court and feeling like my level was close but it wasn’t good enough,” she said. “I was close but there was that extra step that I needed to compete with someone of Angie’s calibre in the sense that she doesn’t give you cheapies.

“She competes for every single point, she’s won Grand Slams, she knows how to hang tough in brutal moments. That was almost a bit of reset knowing I’m not far off but I’m not there yet.”

Wind the clock forward and, with the absent Naomi Osaka, she is the stand-out player in the women’s game. And she is approaching her next challenge with an almost childlike excitement.

“It’s not scary or overwhelming, it’s just exciting playing someone who knows how to win this tournament,” she said. Barty will soon find out if she can too.

Read More

Ash Barty edges closer to emulating Evonne Goolagong Cawley with comfortable win over Ajla Tomljanovic

Emma Raducanu passed her Wimbledon exam with flying colours, according to former teen prodigy Tracey Austin

Smiling assassin Hubert Hurkacz has idol Roger Federer in his sights on Wimbledon Centre Court

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting