A feisty girl with oodles of talent but just not mentally strong enough when it matters the most – Angelique Kerber was tennis’ perpetual underachiever. Long involved in some of the most thrilling and grittiest battles on the WTA Tour, her repeated failures in Slams or in WTA Tour finals were baffling to say the least.
In 2011, the German southpaw first gave a glimpse of the big player she can be when she reached the semi-finals of the US Open. She followed it up with another semi-final appearance at a Major the very next year – this time on the pristine grasscourts of Wimbledon.
Lost all four finals in 2014
Yet, Kerber never managed to fulfill her potential then. In 2014, she lost all the four finals she reached on the WTA Tour. The repercussions of those setbacks were huge. At the beginning of the 2015 season, the German’s confidence level was zilch with opening round exits in four out of five WTA Tournaments by March.
Her struggles had made tennis fans get resigned to a belief that she would never reach the stratospheric heights which were predicted for her.
Yet, it was she, herself who flipped a switch within herself for a remarkable transformation that is the stuff of dreams. A practice session with her idol and one of the legends of the game, Steffi Graf worked wonders as the lefty started finding the spark again.
She did not stop anymore. In 2015, she won four finals in a row and lost just one at the end of the year, setting up the foundation for what would come the very next year.
Today, the 28-year-old Kerber is the proud possessor of an Australian Open title, the US Open title, an Olympic silver medal and has made it to the Wimbledon final for the first time in her career. In addition, she is set to be officially crowned the world’s top-ranked player when the new rankings are announced on Monday.
She admitted that it was always her dream to win Slams and become the No.1. Now, finally that dream has come true.
“When I was a kid I was always dreaming to be the number one player in the world and win Grand Slams and today is the day I won my second Slam here, especially in New York. I’m the number one player on Monday. All the dreams came true this year.”
It all began in New York
The humble Kerber has not forgotten that it was in New York that she truly announced her arrival five years ago. And the US Open happens to be the tournament which confirmed her ascension to the pinnacle of the sport.
“It all started for me here in New York five years ago when I reached the semi-finals and now I am here with the trophy. It’s incredible.”
But the pressure of being the No. 1 now will be immense. Being the hunted is a far more arduous job than being the hunter and Kerber fully realizes that. That her peers will be targeting her more is something she is totally prepared to face, she says.
“I think I’m ready to have this pressure on my shoulder. Being number one of course now everybody will try to beat me and (I) have nothing to lose.”
It is indeed a monumental achievement for the 28-year-old. To end Serena Williams’ Open Era-record equalling reign of 186 consecutive weeks at No.1 is, without a doubt, one of the biggest highlights of her career.
She has so far shown the poise of the world’s best player. It now remains to be seen how Kerber responds to the challenge of remaining at the top.