Angelique Kerber - new force in Womens Tennis
2012 has proven to be a great year for Angelique Kerber, Angelique is rapidly becoming a household name in the world of tennis, mainly due to her exciting performances and rise up the rankings, Angelique is now an established top 10 player on the WTA tour with a good chance of making the year end WTA championships in Istanbul.
Angelique won her first career title at the indoor event in Paris in February, and backed that up with a title two months later in Denmark defeating Caroline Wozniacki. However, the win in Paris showed what Angelique is all about, defeating Maria Sharapova in straight sets in the quarterfinal and Marion Bartoli in a three set final thriller in front of an extremely raucous home crowd.
In reality, Angelique’s good run started well before 2012, twelve months ago at the 2011 edition of the US Open, Angelique came from nowhere to get to the semifinal, defeating players of the calibre of Agnieszka Radwanska and Flavia Pennetta along the way before losing to Sam Stosur in three sets in the semifinal. Going into the 2011 US Open, Angelique was ranked 92 in the world.
However, Angelique would site her turning point before that, to 2011 Wimbledon where she was ranked 100 in the world and lost in the 1st round to Laura Robson. At that point, Angelique decided to take a look at herself to see where she was going wrong and what she needed to do to improve physically, mentally and tactically. Sometimes it takes one significant defeat or bad performance to illicit a change and it is always a measure of a player’s character to turn a crisis into something positive; after all crisis means decision.
With the confidence that US Open run gave her, she has used it to great effect in 2012, being a contender in almost every tournament she has played. Not only has Angelique won Paris and Copenhagen, she has reached the semifinals of the Italian Open, quarterfinal of the French Open, final of Eastbourne and semifinal of Wimbledon. More recently, Angelique reached the final of Cincinnati and the 4th round of the US Open. In Cincinnati, Angelique defeated Serena Williams and Petra Kvitova in the quarterfinal and semifinal but lost to Li Na in the final after taking the 1st set 6-1.
Of course, hunger, desire and mental discipline go a long way in competitive sport but to really excel the biggest factor needed is talent, and I feel Angelique has that in her game and now she is able to use that combined with tactical nous from years of experience on the tour. She is an interesting mix of defence and offence, able to play both in an era where so many players play the same way, which is to hit the ball as hard as possible and make unforced errors like there’s no tomorrow.
When I went to the Paris indoor tournament in February, I looked forward the most to seeing Angelique play. I was not to be disappointed and it was a joy to watch a player who can counterpunch so well and yet be willing to hit down the lines to win a point, the courage to hit down the line is always the sign of a good player. She is probably one of the two best counterpunchers in the top 20 at this moment in time and can get to balls other players can’t reach; often getting them back deep to turn a defensive position into a winning one on the court, especially if her opponent comes to net.
Her ability to hit down the lines to stretch her opponent is also one of her greatest assets and is not afraid to hit the drop shot from time to time. Angelique is also capable of absorbing pace and taking the ball early right on the baseline in the fashion of Agnieszka Radwanksa, often getting to her knees to get the ball across the net.
Angelique is a tactically smart player, no doubt due to years of experience on the tour dealing with different situations; she will not go for outright winners too often but wait for the right opportunity whilst keeping the unforced error ratio compact. Even so, Angelique is striving to improve further by developing her serve to make it a more reliable weapon, and perhaps be willing to come to net more often than she currently does, I feel her volleys are good and she could use that side of her game more often to win quick points. Improving those two areas will ensure Angelique stays established in the top 10 for years to come.
The beneficiary of Angelique’s rise has been German tennis. German tennis is now coming on strong with a group of young players of a similar age pushing each other up the rankings and putting Germany on the map as a serious force. Players such as Sabine Lisicki, Julia Georges and Andrea Petkovic along with Angelique Kerber can give Germany a legitimate shot at winning a grand slam tournament in the future and be serious contenders for the Federation cup in the coming seasons.
I linked up with Angelique on the eve of this year’s US Open tournament in New York:
1. You had your first Olympics experience at Wimbledon in London. What did you think about the Olympics and your experience there?
I was so excited to participate to the Olympics, it's such an honor to compete for your country and being surrounded by so many talented athletes. Atmosphere was also very different from what I had experienced in the past. Staying at the village was unique!
2. I saw you win your first title in Paris Indoor in February (I was the English voice in the crowd supporting you). How much confidence did that win give you, especially beating Maria Sharapova in the quarterfinal and Marion Bartoli in the final?
Marion and Maria are amazing players. That win gave me more confidence as I was able to beat such talented players. That kind of win gives you the push to believe you can achieve more and more.
3. Your rise up the rankings has been superb. You were ranked 100 one year ago and now you are top 8. What in your opinion has been the change to bring out your best consistently?
I believe one of the key things have been my practice, the way I take them and the way I have been doing it this past year. I practiced a lot more and really gave importance to fitness training. Also, winning Paris gave me that confidence that was missing. Now I feel I trust my game. Knowing I can beat top players was necessary to bring me to another level.
4. Which player(s) influenced you the most growing up / who were your favourite players to watch?
Without even thinking about it, I'll say Steffi Graf! I had a chance to met her at Wimbledon, I'll never forget those 5 minutes!!!
5. German tennis is doing well right now; you have 4 players that have come through at the same time. What is the spirit like and how far do you think you can push each other up the rankings? And how can that translate to Federation cup success in future?
I feel proud and happy that German tennis is doing so well. We are all close to each other, I played doubles with Sabine at the Olympics and we were happy doing so, enjoyed my time. We have a healthy rivalry and in the end we all support each other.
6. Which player would you have liked to play from the past and why?
I would again answer Steffi Graf! Why? Because Steffi is Steffi... Number 1 during 377 weeks, 22 times Gd Slam winner... You name it!
7. What do you consider to be your best or favourite surface?
I like all of them
8. What do you consider to be your greatest strengths on the tennis court?
I would say my backhand, my movement and my fighting spirit.
9. With the Olympics coming to an end, which other sport would have liked to have seen if you had a ticket?
I like sport in general, if I had to choose one, I would have loved to watch swimming.
10. What goals have you set for the rest of the year and the upcoming seasons?
I obviously want to maintain my ranking and be part of the top 5.
11. What are your favourite things to do outside of tennis?
Sport wise I love to swim. I also like to dance, do shopping, hanging out with my friends, watch movies.... Being on a tournament is everything but having a normal life, when I'm home I really like to have this connection that brings me back to reality.