Women’s tennis has a new world No.1 – Angelique Kerber – and she marked the milestone in style with a thrilling three-set win, 6-3 4-6 6-4, over Karolina Pliskova in the US Open final.
It is Kerber’s first US Open title and second major overall, adding to her Australian Open success in January. It caps a monumental 2016 for the German, making three grand slam finals in all, having previously made none.
When the new rankings are released Monday, Kerber, at 28, will be the oldest player to debut at No.1. She’ll also be just the 22nd player in WTA history to get to top ranking, and the first German since her idol Steffi Graf in 1997.
US OPEN CHAMPION!!! WOW, I DID IT!!! pic.twitter.com/YpWv5A7jaM
— Angelique Kerber (@AngeliqueKerber) September 10, 2016
Even if Kerber had lost in the final, she was already guaranteed to knock Serena Williams off top spot after Williams lost her semi-final to Pliskova – but Kerber added silverware to the prestigious achievement.
“All my dreams came true today and I’m just trying to enjoy the moment. It’s incredible. I’m standing here with a second grand slam trophy and it means so much to me,” Kerber said.
In a match of contrasting game style, Pliskova the flat hitter and big server and Kerber, one of the game’s great retrievers, it had the potential to be a classic. And it delivered.
Kerber’s fitness and movement has gone to another level lately and she used it to race to a 3-1 lead, with Pliskova, a first time finalist, appearing nervous. Towards the end of the set, Pliskova was forced to be creative, employing a drop shot because she was frustrated at not being able to hit through Kerber’s watertight defence. Kerber chased it down, closed the set 6-3 and wagged her finger as if to say ‘no one drop shots me and gets away with it’.
In the seventh game of the second set, Pliskova displayed incredible precision, hitting close to the lines with a winner off the forehand, then backhand, then a lob to finally break Kerber for 4-3. Pliskova would finish the set off 6-4 with her huge first serve.
Kerber had lost her first set of the tournament, and when Pliskova continued the momentum to lead 3-1 in the decider and Kerber clearly looked tense, the upset was on. But the Bremen product responded to break back for 3-3 and now it was Pliskova’s turn to get tight, thinking too much about the finish line.
Tenth seed Pliskova cracked at 4-5 when she was serving to stay in match. She got broken to love with a flurry of unforced errors. Kerber fell to the court in jubilation and was emotional when reflecting in her chair before the presentation. She pockets a cool $3.5 million, but more significantly, is the first player not named Serena to win two grand slams in a season since Justine Henin in 2007.