Over the last few years, Serena Williams has been a synonym for women’s tennis. Especially in the last two years, the spotlight was firmly on Williams, as she was on the verge of equalling Steffi Graf’s record of 22 grandslams, the most by any woman in the Open Era. 2016 too, began in the same fashion, as there was a lot of pressure on Williams and she eventually equalled Graf’s record of 22 grandslams when she triumphed in Wimbledon. But 2016 definitely belonged to one woman, Angelique Kerber from Germany.
Starting off the year as world no.10, Kerber finished the year as world no.1, winning three titles including two grandslams enroute. Considering how open the women’s circuit is, Kerber’s rise is certainly an amazing achievement. Kerber has closed her 2016 season with an impressive 63-18 win-loss record, winning three titles and reaching the finals in five other events.
As they say, a good start is very important in sports, Kerber had a great start to her 2016 season as she reached the finals of the Brisbane International, a lead up to the first grandslam of the season, the Australian Open. Later, she went on to win the Australian Open, her first grandslam title.
The Australian open provided the much needed breakthrough for Kerber. After enduring a very tough opener against Misaki Doi of Japan, where she won 6-7 7-6 6-3, Kerber had a rather easy route until the quarter-finals, as she polished off unseeded opponents with ease.
Kerber’s quater-final opponent was the resurgent Belarussian, Victoria Azarenka. It was a high quality match, but Kerber managed to win in straight sets, the scoreline reading 6-3 7-5. An unfamiliar face awaited Kerber in the semi-finals. Great Britain’s Johanna Konta, being unseeded, had played a very good tournament to reach her first grandslam semi-finals. Kerber however, won yet another match in straight sets to reach her first grandslam finals.
Her opponent in the finals was none other than Serena Williams. Playing her first grandslam final and with Williams on the other side of the net, fans wouldn’t have been surprised if Williams steamrolled her opponent as she usually does. But Kerber shook off all her nerves and made a great start to the final by bagging the first set 6-4.
Williams, known for her fighting spirit, came back strongly to take the second set 6-3 to push the finals into the decider. With the match being played at a very high level, the fans were in for a treat, as both players matched shot to shot. Finally, it was Kerber who held her nerve to win the set 6-4 and take home her first ever grandslam title.
Moving on to the clay courts of Europe, Kerber won yet another title, her second of the year in her home, at Stuttgart, Germany. But this win did not translate to another good showing at Roland Garros, as Kerber was knocked out in the first round by Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands. Having lost in the first and second rounds in Madrid and Rome respectively, prior to Roland Garros, Kerber indeed had a forgettable clay court season.
The grass court season had a better ending, as Kerber reached the quater finals in Birmingham and ended runner-up at the Championships at Wimbledon.
Kerber had a terrific run at Wimbledon as she reached her second grandslam final without dropping a set. Kerber had easy outings in the first four rounds against unseeded players. The quarter-finals was another quality match as Kerber defeated Romania’s Simona Halep 7-5 7-6 to set up a meeting with Venus Williams. Tennis fans all around the world were expecting to see an all Williams final but Kerber dashed those hopes, as she won 6-4 6-4 to set up yet another grandslam final with Serena Williams. But this time, Williams was at her best, as she won the match and equalled Steffi Graf’s record of 22 grandslams.
A pretty good season thus far propelled Kerber to world no,2 and her next aim was to win gold at the summer Olympics at Rio de Janeiro. Kerber came very close to the gold medal, but had to be content with the silver medal, as in inspired Monica Puig won Puerto Rico’s first individual gold medal at the games.
With her confidence at a new high, Kerber arrived at the United States of America. Prior to taking part in the final grandslam at New York, Kerbe competed at the Cincinatti masters. This tournament provided the first opportunity for Kerber to overtake Williams as the new world no.1. All she had to do was, win the title. But Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic, one of the rising stars of the game, went on to defeat Kerber to win the title. The wait was not yet over for Kerber.
Kerber had a phenomenal run at the US Open, as she went on to win her second grandslam of the year and also secure the world no.1 ranking. She rather had a tougher draw compared to the other slams, as she defeated top players like Petra Kvitova and Roberta Vinci in the round of 16 and quater-finals respectively. Caroline Wozniacki, recovering from a poor season, was her semi-final opponent, but Kerber was too good on the day. She yet again reached a grandslam final, her thirs of the year, without dropping a set.
After Karolina Pliskova had defeated Serena Williams in the semi-finals, Kerber was secured of the world no.1 ranking. But Kerber did not let complacency take over as she dished out a superb performance to win her second grandslam of the year.
Entering the WTA year-end finals at Singapore as the no.1 ranked player and with Williams pulling out of the tournament, Kerber was the favourite to win. She had a perfect record in the round-robins, winning all three matches. Kerber defeated defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland in the semi-finals but came up short against a fired up Dominika Cibulkova to end as runner up and cap off a incredible season.