The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

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

Photo: AFP

Angelique Ker­ber rev­els in her US Open vic­tory on Septem­ber 10.

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