ANGELIQUE Kerber didn’t quite know what to say. Still glowing from a US Open semi-final win that propelled her to her third Grand Slam final of the year, on the same day her cherished dream of gaining the world number one ranking came true, the 28-yearold German was gently chided for being just a little too “predictable” in describing the emotional rollercoaster of her day.
“I don’t know what you want to hear,” Kerber said with a smile, graciously deflecting the question with the same ease she shows in blasting a forehand back at an opponent.
It’s a skill she’s honed over the course of a stellar 2016 campaign that saw her knock off Serena Williams in the Australian Open final in January, reach the Wimbledon final in July and, on September 10, claim a second Grand Slam title at the US Open.
Long established in the top 10, with seven WTA titles before her Grand Slam breakthrough at the age of 28, she is now celebrated by her country’s biggest sports stars as one of their ranks, plaudits pouring in from the likes of Manchester United star Bastian Schweinsteiger, NBA great Dirk Nowitzki, Formula One driver Nico Rosberg and even International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach.
Through it all Kerber has maintained her down-to-earth demeanour.
She said her first call after her Australian Open triumph would be to her grandparents in Puszczykowo, Poland, where they run the Centrum Tenisowe Angie tennis academy and where the Bremen-born Kerber is now based.
Coming from a tennis family, she first picked up a racquet at the age of three. During her rise she’s been encouraged by childhood idol Steffi Graf, and after a worrying dip in form in early 2015 turned to the German great for help.
She credited training with Graf in Las Vegas, where Graf lives with husband Andre Agassi, with helping her turn things around.
But she’s at pains to point out she’s never wanted to model herself on the German superstar.
“She’s a great champion,” Kerber said. “For me, it’s really important to go on my own way.”
She’s done that with the help of coach Torben Beltz, who guided her through one of her best seasons in 2012 and was re-hired in 2015 after she split with Benjamin Ebrahimzadeh.
She said Beltz and the rest of her team helped her focus on how to make the leap this season.
“We spoke about 2016, playing better in the majors and in the bigger tournaments and playing consistent,” Kerber said.
“This is what I changed this year. I was always believing my weapons and about my tennis.”
Supremely level-headed on the court, Kerber is light-hearted off it, and her legion of social media fans delight in the selfies of Kerber dancing in the streets of New York or scuba diving in the Maldives.
Her ability to stay on an even keel is hard-won, something she’s learned to do only after years of letting her frustrations run away with her cost her matches.
“I lost a lot of matches with this stuff, because I was frustrated,” Kerber said.
“When I missed one shot I was like thinking about the shot the next few minutes and few shots.”
Her ability to shake off those negative feelings was on full display in Flushing Meadows, where she fell a break down in the third set before defeating Karolina Pliskova 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 to lift the title on September 10.
“You have to believe in your dreams,” she said.
“You have to go with a lot of patience, working hard, have a great team around you and love what you are doing.
“This is when everything comes together one day.”
– The Washington Post
Angelique Kerber revels in her US Open victory on September 10.