Angelique Kerber will face Karolina Pliskova in the US Open final.
New York: Angelique Kerber didn’t quite know what to say.
Still glowing from a US Open semi-final win that propelled her to her third Grand Slam final of the year, on the same day her cherished dream of gaining the world number one ranking came true, the 28-year-old German was gently chided for being just a little too “predictable” in describing the emotional roller-coaster of her day.
“I don’t know what you want to hear,” Kerber said with a smile, graciously deflecting the question with the same ease she shows in blasting a forehand back at an opponent.
It’s a skill she’s honed over the course of a stellar 2016 campaign that saw her knock off Serena Williams in the Australian Open final in January, reach the Wimbledon final in July and win Olympic silver in August.
“After Australia I had so many things to deal with,” Kerber said. “It was a completely new situation.”
Down to earth
Long established in the top 10, with seven WTA titles before her Grand Slam breakthrough at the age of 28, she is now celebrated by her country’s biggest sports stars as one of their ranks, plaudits pouring in from the likes of Manchester United star Bastian Schweinsteiger, NBA great Dirk Nowitzki, Formula One driver Nico Rosberg and even International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach.
Through it all Kerber has maintained her down to earth demeanor.
She said her first call after her Australian Open triumph would be to her grandparents in Puszczykowo, Poland, where they run the Centrum Tenisowe Angie tennis academy and where the Bremen-born Kerber is now based.
Coming from a tennis family, she first picked up a racquet at the age of three. During her rise she’s been encouraged by childhood idol Steffi Graf, and after a worrying dip in form in early 2015 turned to the German great for help.
She credited training with Graf in Las Vegas, where Graf lives with husband Andre Agassi, with helping her turn things around.
She also split with coach Benjamin Ebrahimzadeh and rehired former coach Torben Beltz, who had guided her through one of her best seasons in 2012, when Kerber reached number five in the world and made the semi-finals at Wimbledon.
Supremely level-headed on the court, she’s light-hearted off it, and her legion of social media fans delight in the selfies of Kerber dancing in the streets of New York or scuba diving in the Maldives.
Her ability to stay on an even keel is hard-won, something she’s learned to do after years of letting her frustrations run away with her cost her matches.
“I was trying to be more positive than I was the last few years, because I know that the body language is really important,” she said.
“I lost a lot of matches with this stuff, because I was frustrated. When I missed one shot I was like thinking about the shot the next few minutes and few shots.”
Now, she says, “I’m really trying to be mentally strong and not showing my opponent that I’m inside actually a little bit more negative and nervous.”