Wimbledon (CNN)Patrick Mouratoglou rarely lacks in confidence. That’s certainly understandable.
Besides playing a leading role in transforming the fortunes of Serena Williams since they teamed up in 2012, the suave Frenchman operates a tennis academy in France and is a sought-after television analyst.
But the coach’s usual swagger was noticeably lacking as he chatted to a group of reporters at Wimbledon following the defending champion’s 6-2 6-0 rout of the unfortunate Elena Vesnina.
Pondering a rematch with Angelique Kerber, who stunned Williams in January’s Australian Open final and defeated the world No. 1’s older sister Venus 6-4 6-4 in Thursday’s second semifinal at the All England Club, it was a chance for Mouratoglou to come out swinging.
Instead his approach was serene.
“I’m not going to think about that match,” he said, referring to the German’s stunning 6-4 3-6 6-4 win in Melbourne. “It was another match and it was another Serena. I want to see Kerber against the real Serena, and we’ll see the result.”
That may seem like fighting talk, but his delivery rendered the “we’ll see the result” part as speculative rather than decisive.
Perhaps the edge is off, if only slightly, because Williams was upset at the U.S. Open last September, then Australia, and also at last month’s French Open. She is stalled on 21 majors, one shy of Steffi Graf’s Open Era record.
Williams, these days, is no longer the certainty she was while achieving four straight majors — or a second “Serena Slam” — from 2014 to 2015.
She knows most outsiders see the 34-year-old as losing the last two major finals, not achieving three straight grand slam finals in 2016.
Actually, she agrees.
“For anyone else in this whole planet it would be a wonderful accomplishment,” she told reporters. “For me it’s obviously holding the trophy and winning which would make it a better accomplishment for me.
“For me it’s not enough. But I think that’s what makes me different.
“That’s what makes me Serena.”
Williams was superb against the 50th-ranked Vesnina, hitting 11 aces, 28 winners and committing a mere seven unforced errors in their 48 minutes on court. In the second set, the Russian managed five points.
Williams romped to her ninth Wimbledon final, ruthlessly dispatching a 29-year-old who before this week had never got past the fourth round in singles at a slam.
“It’s always impressive when she plays her level,” Mouratoglou said. “But it’s her level. Nothing more, nothing less.
“We have to say everything worked perfectly, but of course it’s not always like this. But I think her level is closer to this than some of the things we’ve seen in the last month.”
Overall, Mouratoglou likes what he has witnessed from his charge in the last two weeks.
“She (behaved) like a top player, not like the No. 1 player in the world, in the last month,” he said. “Usually she always behaves like the No. 1 on the court and out of the court. So now she’s back to No. 1.
“I’m not talking about results. I’m talking about attitude, I’m talking about the ability to handle the matches, the ability to change the matches around when she’s in trouble, all those things that she’s so good at.”
Williams didn’t need to make any adjustments in the semifinals, yet the likelihood is that Saturday will be more complicated. It can’t be as easy.
Kerber is a counter-puncher who stepped up her attacking game this year, as Williams discovered only too well in Melbourne.
A shoulder injury, combined with the pressure of competing in a first major since her breakthrough and meeting an inspired foe in Kiki Bertens, led to a first-round loss at Roland Garros.
In hindsight, Kerber’s coach Torben Beltz said, it wasn’t the worst outcome.
“It was pretty tough for her but I think now I can say it was okay to lose because we had some time to rest the shoulder and get ready for Wimbledon,” the towering, affable German told CNN. “And she’s playing very well. So right now it was okay to lose in Paris and play good here,” he added with a laugh.
Kerber broke Venus five times and limited the five-time Wimbledon champion — who at 36 was the oldest grand slam semifinalist since 1994 — to less than 60% points won on first serve.
The fourth seed sealed the contest and thereby prevented a fifth all-Williams final at Wimbledon — and first since 2009 — with a stinging cross-court forehand, a shot that’s particularly worked for the 28-year-old lefty this Wimbledon.
“In Paris it was actually too much pressure that I put on myself,” Kerber, who idolized Graf, conceded to reporters. “So that’s why here I’m feeling more relaxed and I’m not making things too complicated, like in Australia. I think this is a key.”
Kerber hasn’t dropped a set yet and Serena just one, against Christina McHale in the second round.
Their performances, plus their recent history, suggest a thriller reminiscent of Melbourne may be in the works.
“I think we’re going to see a great final,” Beltz said. “Serena is playing great. I think Angie is ready for this final. Angie won against her in Australia so she can go in there with her head high and try to play the same as Australia, play very intense and play long rallies with her.
“Serena is going to be fired up but Angie is going to be fired up, too. She wants to win again. She liked the Australian Open final, she likes to win, she likes to be the grand slam champion.”
Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/07/tennis/wimbledon-tennis-serena-venus-williams-kerber-vesnina/index.html