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Serena's comeback trail - the 13 matches to the Wimbledon final

Serena Williams will face Angelique Kerber in the Wimbledon 2018 final

Wimbledon, July 13: Serena Williams' 14th match since returning to action after giving birth will be a grand slam final.

Reaching the Wimbledon final, where Angelique Kerber awaits in a repeat of the 2016 showpiece, is an astonishing accomplishment for one of tennis' greatest players.

Williams only gave birth to daughter Alexis Olympia 10 months ago, while complications following the delivery left her bed-ridden for six weeks and required multiple surgeries.

We chart her return to the WTA Tour ahead of what is arguably one of the greatest sporting accomplishments, regardless of the result on Centre Court on Saturday.

REMOVING THE RUST

Over a year had passed since Williams won the 2017 Australian Open in the early stages of pregnancy in her previous outing, so expectations were low when she headed to the BNP Paribas Masters.

Williams overcame Zarina Diyas 7-5, 6-3 in the first round at Indian Wells, and the 36-year-old acknowledged she had plenty of work ahead of her.

"I'm a little rusty but it doesn't matter. It definitely wasn't easy," she said.

A clash with Kiki Bertens ended 7-6 (7-5), 7-5 in Williams' favour and set up a meeting with sister Venus, who showed her sibling no sympathy to hand her a first defeat since January 2017.

OSAKA ON SONG

A tough first-round draw at the Miami Open pitted Williams against Naomi Osaka, who went into the tournament off the back of her first WTA Premier title at Indian Wells.

Osaka's relentless efforts against serve earned her a break in each set and a 6-3, 6-2 triumph to upset one of her idols.

Although Williams smiled on court following her loss, she left without speaking to the media.

It was not to be the only setback on her road to recovery.

PARIS PROBLEM

Williams said she felt like a "warrior princess" when, ranked 451st, she took the famous Court Philippe Chatrier to face Kristyna Pliskova at the French Open sporting a black catsuit.

In reality it was to help her with her susceptibility to blood clots, an issue that played a huge role in the problems that beset her following the delivery of her baby.

It was not quite an epic battle to overcome Pliskova 7-6 (7-4), 6-4, but 17th seed Ashleigh Barty provided a far sterner test in round two – after losing the first set, Williams fought back to triumph 3-6 6-3, 6-4.

Julia Goerges was swatted aside in straight sets but a pectoral injury forced her to withdraw ahead of a mouthwatering match-up against five-time major winner Maria Sharapova.

RETURN OF THE QUEEN

Williams was ranked 181st in the world when she arrived at Wimbledon and her seeding of 25 was a source of contention, but she went on to prove more than deserving.

Comfortable straight-sets wins over Arantxa Rus and Viktoriya Tomova set up a clash with promising French talent Kristina Mladenovic, who pushed Williams but was unable to avoid a 7-5, 7-6 (7-2) defeat to the seven-time champion.

While the improving American eased past Evgeniya Rodina 6-2, 6-2 in the fourth round, the last of the top 10 seeds was eliminated as none made the quarter-finals for the first time in Wimbledon history.

The likes of Caroline Wozniacki, Elina Svitolina and Karolina Pliskova exiting significantly improved Williams' chances of making an extraordinary final.

She did that by showing incredible resilience to fight back from a set down against Camila Giorgi, before overpowering Goerges once more in the semi-finals to set up a chance to claim a record-equalling 24th grand slam against Kerber.

Source: OPTA

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    Story first published: Friday, July 13, 2018, 19:30 [IST]
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