Kerber: the giant-killer from Germany!

Angelique Kerber reveals that apart from beating Serena and winning the Australian Open, the biggest learning from the tournament Down Under was reaching "a new level of mental strength." She adds, "I believe more in myself."

For Angelique Kerber, her victory at the Australian Open was a voyage of self-discovery.   -  Getty Images

Serena Williams proved to be a very gracious loser at the Australian Open after Kerber had shocked her.   -  AP

Steffi Graf and Boris Becker... a German double delight at Wimbledon 1989. Tennis players of their stature have not emerged from Germany since.   -  Getty Images

On January 30, 2016, Serena Williams stood on the verge of rewriting history. She was about to play her seventh Australian Open singles final and trying to equal Steffi Graf’s record of 22 Grand Slam singles titles. But tennis fans across the world were not prepared for what happened in the next two hours and 14 minutes.

In that time, Angelique Kerber, who had turned 28 only 12 days back, fought and won the biggest final of her career, stunning World No. 1 Serena 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 and winning the hearts of all and sundry. And, it was not quite surprising to see Serena walk across the court, and embrace Kerber with joy and warmth.

It took Kerber 13 years to enter a Grand Slam final and she didn’t waste her opportunity. She not only won a Grand Slam title, but rose to a career best ranking of 2.

Speaking to Sportstar, Kerber reveals that apart from beating Serena and winning the Australian Open, the biggest learning from the tournament Down Under was reaching “a new level of mental strength.” She adds, “I believe more in myself.”

Kerber visited Graf ahead of the Indian Wells Masters last year. She remembers how Graf inspired her over the next few days. She feels the meeting helped her more mentally than in making changes in her daily routine.

“Steffi is a great person and an idol of my youth. She helped me to believe in myself. I think it helped me more mental wise,” she says.

Kerber acknowledges that her final against Serena was special. Nonetheless, her concentration was more on herself.

“It was not a normal match, when you approach your first Grand Slam final and it is against the best player in the world. But I tried to focus on myself and wanted to show her that I was not in the final accidentally.”

Talking about how things have changed since winning the Australian Open, Kerber says: “The attention is much more focussed on me and there are a lot of requests of all kinds, so I have more stress. But I am enjoying every single part.

“By beating her I have not become an expert in ‘How-to-beat-Serena’, but as in any other match as well, you have to try to play your game and focus only on yourself, which is so difficult when you face the best player in the world.”

Kerber had a memorable stint with her coach Torben Beltz from 2011 till 2013. She entered the US Open and the Wimbledon semifinals in 2011 and 2012 respectively and also made it to the French Open quarters in 2012. However, by the end of 2013, Beltz and Kerber parted ways.

Following that, there was a dip in Kerber’s performance and she also fell out of the top 10 rankings for the first time since 2012. Subsequently, Kerber and Beltz rejoined forces at the start of 2015.

“Torben has always been very important! He knows me for such a long time and knows how to handle me in any specific situation,” Kerber says.

After Boris Becker and Steffi Graf, there has been a lull in German tennis. No one has been as successful as the duo. Kerber believes it is not easy to repeat their achievements.

“What those two great sportspersons have achieved is not easy to repeat. They were exceptions. They created a big boom for tennis in Germany, but unfortunately no one could step into their shoes.”

The German is also upbeat about her nation’s chances in the Rio Olympics.

“There will be most of the best players in the world. But, of course, as in any Grand Slam tournament, there are chances for medals,” Kerber says.

Speaking about the feeling of being the highest-ranked European and left-handed player on the WTA tour, Kerber says in one word, “Great!”

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