“It’s just wonderful”, a beaming Kerber, told an adoring crowd after being handed the winner’s cheque of $3.5 million.
Angelique Kerber started playing tennis at age three. “It is incredible. I’m standing here with a second Grand Slam trophy and it means so much to me”, Kerber was quoted as saying.
The 6-foot 1-inch (185 cm) Pliskova fought back from a set down at Arthur Ashe Stadium to give Kerber, one of the best defensive players in history, a major scare in the grand slam final.
This year, Kerber, no spring chicken at 28, beat Williams in the Australian Open final.
Pliskova is regarded as one of the biggest underachievers for someone of her talent and gameplay and leads the WTA tour with a staggering 446 aces. “And now, to be the next after her, to be a German No. 1 and win Grand Slams, this is, for me, really important”. I am at the top, number one. “I was expecting a very tough match”. And after frittering away her first four break points of the match, she converted her fifth with a lob-volley victor that curled over Kerber and alit right by the baseline. While she was down a break in the third set, Kerber ultimately pulled through, winning 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.
The 10th-seeded Pliskova had never even been to the round of 16 at a major before she blew past that milestone at the U.S. Open.
She was able to maintain it with authoritative play from the baseline, fending off three break points before cracking Pliskovas serve again when the Czech double-faulted to give her a set point.
In the end, when Pliskova upset Williams in the semifinals, Kerber was guaranteed to be No. 1 when the next rankings come out Monday.
The match opened with Kerber breaking a jittery Pliskova and ended the same way. It looked like the match would go the distance.
She made 47 unforced errors, against just 17 for Kerber, but on the other side of the equation hit almost twice as many winners, 40 to the German’s 21. In the first round in NY, she faced Serena Williams (r.) for the first time.
As she does against most opponents, Kerber would make Pliskova swing two, three, four extra times to try to end a point. Kerber had pulled out of a tournament a week earlier due to a shoulder injury, and she required medical treatment at Roland Garros.
“The improvements in her game, both in her movement and eye to be more aggressive was apparent in NY”.
“It’s just unbelievable”, Kerber said in an on-court interview. Moments later, the German trailed 3-1.
Kerber still remembers how she saved the match point – with a serve out wide that forced Doi to miss a forehand. She did a lot for German tennis, as well. But she was already guaranteed of top spot when Pliskova saw off Williams in the semi-finals.
However, things were not looking great for Kerber, as her body language did not look good in the second set.
But the mental strength she’s tried to cultivate was there when she needed it on Saturday.