SO much for taking baby steps. Serena Williams claims she wasn’t expecting much of herself at this year’s Wimbledon. This time last year, after all, she was still expecting her first child. But it isn’t just little Olympia who is running rather than walking in South West London this summer.

In just her fourth tournament back after a complicated childbirth, which led to numerous surgeries, the No 25 seed will battle it out for her eighth title here tomorrow, Wimbledon royalty under the watchful eye of her friend Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex.

In fact, it is almost as if the last two years didn’t happen. The 2018 women’s singles final here will be a re-run of the 2016 showpiece, with Germany’s Angelique Kerber the only woman who now stands between her and the mother of all tennis achievements.

Not only would the 36-year-old’s 24th major honour in all move her level with Margaret Court on the all-time list – the God-fearing Australian great with the controversial views on homosexuality collected most of her awards prior to the start of the open era – she is bidding to become the first mum to claim this title since another Aussie, Evonne Goolagong Cawley in 1980. Even without the royal audience, it was a sporting story which would garner global attention.

This 6-2, 6-4 win against the other German who stood in her way, No 13 seed Julia Goerges. was done in such a straightforward manner that Serena had to insist that there has been nothing remotely ‘inevitable’ about her progress in South West London this fortnight. In fact, she re-iterated the fact that due to a complicated childbirth and multiple surgeries, she ‘nearly didn’t make it’ at all.

“It’s no secret I had a super tough delivery,” said Serena. “I lost count after, like, four surgeries because I was in so many surgeries. Because of all the blood issues I have, I was really touch-and-go for a minute.

“It has been a crazy ten months, I was still pregnant this time last year,” she added. “Is it frustrating people think this has been routine for me? It’s not frustrating, but it’s like ‘c’mon guys, this is pretty awesome’. You hear people say, ‘oh, she’s a favourite’. But the last 16 months, I’ve played four tournaments, and was carrying another human half that time.

“Who’s footwork has improved most in the last 10 months? I’m going to say hers [Olympia’s] because she’s moving those feet now, she’s walking, maybe a little too fast. She’s trying to go faster than her body will allow her to go. I was expecting a few more baby steps myself. If there was a Wimbledon royalty I would like to believe that I am Wimbledon royalty.”

As for the prospect of equalling Court’s record, she had hardly given it a moment’s thought. “It’s just a number,” she said. “I want to get as many as I can. I think it will be just like the last final, another good final. I guess in a way it is a chance to pick up where I left off. But she is playing extremely well, extremely confident.”

If it is pretty clear what Serena has been up to since taking that dramatic 2016 final by a 7-5, 6-3 scoreline, Kerber’s has been a less-publicised period in the wilderness.

This athletic 30-year-old from Bremen is twice a Grand Slam winner and a former World No 1. She has a victory in a major showpiece against Serena on her resume from the 2016 Australian Open and would dearly love to become the first German winner of the Venus Rosewater dish since Steffi Graf too. A lapse in self belief last year had her out of the world’s top 20 but all that seems like light years away when she produced an assured performance to see out a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Jelena Ostapenko, the 2017 French Open champion from Latvia.

“Last year a lot of things happened, not only this,” said Kerber. “I made the priority playing tennis, focusing on what I love, finding my motivation back.

“This is a completely new match,” she added. “We have both learned a lot. She’s coming back. For me also, I’m coming back from 2017. I know I have to play my best tennis to beat her, especially on the grass, on Centre Court, where she won so many titles. But it’s always an honor to play against her.”