Pressure will be on Williams, says Bartoli
Bartoli says world No. 1 will win if she handles her own 'stress levels'
One has just reached her first Grand Slam final, the other is eyeing a record-equalling 22nd Major triumph.
Most fans would rate Angelique Kerber's chances of beating multiple Grand Slam singles champion Serena Williams in today's Australian Open final as slim.
Former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli, however, believes the battle between the German and the American will be closer than most expect.
The retired 31-year-old French star is now a Fox Sports Asia pundit and, in a regional conference call from Melbourne yesterday, said: "I think it will be a close match, because there are always nerves in a Grand Slam final.
"Even Serena, who has been so successful, will have them.
"The beginning of the match will be crucial.
"Angelique, in the first 15 minutes, needs to shake off the stress, try get her legs to move, and hit as many balls as she can during warm-up.
"She needs to try and forget it's a Grand Slam final.
"That said, Serena loves to play under these conditions. She has never lost a night game at the Australian Open, so she thrives under it.
"If you've done it before and succeeded all the time, like Serena has, then you know exactly what to do."
Bartoli added that 28-year-old Kerber had "nothing to lose" against an overwhelming favourite like Williams, and would be able to "swing freely and enjoy every second of the final".
The final promises to be intriguing, not least because the shadow of tennis great Steffi Graf looms large over it.
Kerber credits her legendary compatriot for helping her fine-tune her groundstrokes and boost her confidence, and received a congratulatory text from the 46-year-old after she beat Britain's Johanna Konta to reach the final.
Williams, the defending champion, meanwhile, will match Graf's Open-era record of 22 Grand Slam singles titles if she wins a seventh title Down Under.
Bartoli believes the veteran American powerhouse does not need to tie or overtake Graf's record to prove she is the best of all-time.
When asked who she felt was the greater player, Bartoli said, without skipping a beat: "Serena. But just. It's a very, very (small) margin.
"Her serve is just a little better.
"It's a difficult and tricky question, they are both amazing champions.
"Steffi has won the Grand Slam and Olympic gold so she is a great champion, but she did it in a time where the field was not as strong and not so many contenders out there.
"Serena is more powerful, and she has more weapons all-round... compared to Steffi, who had her forehand."
Bartoli added the only thing that can stop Williams from eclipsing Graf's record is herself.
"With Serena, it's all about her stress levels," said Bartoli.
"We saw it in the (6-0, 6-4 Australian Open semi-final win over Angieszka Radwanska), when she dominated early on then started to make mistakes... That disrupts her rhythm and affects her performance.
"She just has to keep her coolness and make her shots, which are way too good for any other tennis player in the world right now.
"If she does that, I don't see anyone in the world who can beat her."
BY THE NUMBERS
55 One of Serena Williams' weapons is her big service, but surprisingly, she's behind in the aces count in Melbourne. Her quarter-final victim, Maria Sharapova, heads the standings with 55 aces from five matches. Williams can add to her tally of 46 (from six matches) in today's final, when she will face Angelique Kerber, who has just 15 aces.