Serena joy as history bid set for the royal treatment
Serena Williams is one victory away from equalling Margaret Court's all-time Grand Slam record and will have royal support as she bids to make more history.
Ten months after giving birth to daughter Olympia and suffering life-threatening complications, and in only her fourth tournament back, the 36-year-old defeated Julia Goerges 6-2 6-4 to reach her 10th Wimbledon final.
Victory over Angelique Kerber tomorrow would give Williams a 24th Slam singles title, tying her with Australian Court.
And after speculation, it was confirmed that Williams' close friend Meghan Markle, now the Duchess of Sussex, will be in the Royal Box to lend her support.
Williams cited beating Court's record as a motivating factor in her comeback, but said yesterday: "I don't want to limit myself. I think that's what I was doing in the past, I was limiting myself.
"It's just a number. I want to get as many as I can. I still have a match to win, so I'm not even there yet."
Williams put on a superb display of power and athleticism to defeat Goerges, who was by no means overawed in her first Grand Slam semi-final.
She will now contest a rematch of the 2016 final against German Kerber.
Williams has not lost a singles match at Wimbledon since a third-round defeat by Alize Cornet in 2014 and is on a 20-match winning streak at the tournament. It may appear like business as usual, but to Williams it is anything but.
She said: "It's no secret I had a super tough delivery. I lost count after four surgeries because I was in so many surgeries. It was just routine every day, I had to have a new surgery.
"Because of all the blood issues I have, I was really touch-and-go for a minute. I'm glad no one told me at the time. It was tough. There was a time I could barely walk to my mailbox.
"A lot of people were saying, 'Oh, she should be in the final'. For me it's such a pleasure and a joy because less than a year ago I was going through so much."
Williams is unquestionably Wimbledon royalty, and Kensington Palace announced the Duchess of Sussex will be at the All England Club with sister-in-law the Duchess of Cambridge for the women's final.
Williams, who was among the guests at the royal wedding in May, said of Meghan: "We've always had a wonderful friendship. Every year for a couple of years she has come out to Wimbledon, supported me. Now she's supporting me in a different role. But our friendship is still exactly the same. I look forward to it."
Kerber is part of an exclusive club of players to have defeated Williams in a Slam final, having done so at the Australian Open in 2016 before the American got her revenge at Wimbledon.
Williams leads their head-to-head 6-2 overall, and she said: "The last Wimbledon I won was against her. But this is different. She's playing well. I have to be ready for the match of my life."
Kerber has her heart set on a first Wimbledon title after booking a return to the final.
The German beat Jelena Ostapenko 6-3 6-3 in their semi-final and is one win away from a third Grand Slam triumph.
The form of two years ago sent Kerber to World No.1 and she is again at a similarly high level after a horror 2017 campaign.
"Wimbledon is a really special place. I think everybody knows this tournament. It would be really special to win," she said. "But it's a long way off. I know I have to play my best in the final.
"It's really special. I know it will be a full house there. The atmosphere will be amazing.
"I'm looking forward to having the feeling again. With 2016, all the success, 2017, with a few up and downs, to coming back this year, I learned many things."
Her semi-final was billed as attack versus defence and it was the solid manner of Kerber that prevailed as she let an erratic Ostapenko, who was going for winners on almost every shot, hand her a swathe of free points.
"She tries to be aggressive from the first point," Kerber added. "For me it was important to be moving well, have patience, and also take my chances."
Ostapenko said: "I'm working on my consistency.
"In practice I'm working on longer rallies."