Listening to Angelique Kerber throughout her magical 2016, one phrase always stands out: “I was just going for it,” she’d keep saying.
That, in a nutshell, is how she managed to become World No.1 and win two grand slams out of three finals reached, all within a span of nine months. All while hungrily and aggressively “going for it”.
Of course a lot goes into getting to that state.
First you need to allow yourself to want more, aim for bigger goals – the biggest goals in fact.
Prior to 2016, Kerber had been in the top-10 for almost five years.
She had qualified for the WTA Finals three times, made a couple of grand slam semi-finals and won several titles.
She had a career many 28-year-olds would have been content with. But she decided she wanted more.
Second you have to work hard for it.
Behind the scenes, Kerber has been putting in the hard yards, with an extra push from her coach Torben Beltz, whom she reunited with last year.
Having previously worked together in the past, Beltz knew Kerber well and what she is capable of, and he has been pushing her further and further.
Once you’ve raised your level of expectation of yourself, and have put in the work, you start gaining more confidence in your own abilities and start believing you both can and deserve to achieve greater things. That is precisely what has happened with Kerber and it has been fascinating to watch how her story has unfolded this season. It is a journey we can all learn from and it’s the perfect demonstration of what the combination of ambition, hard work, and self-belief can help one accomplish.
The German is the first player, not named Serena Williams, to make three grand slam finals in a single season since 2006 (Justine Henin made four that year).
Kerber could have folded after winning her first major at the Australian Open in January.
She could have succumbed to a typical post-breakthrough slump, or felt content with being a grand slam champion but she did the exact opposite of that.
US OPEN CHAMPION!!! WOW, I DID IT!!! pic.twitter.com/YpWv5A7jaM— Angelique Kerber (@AngeliqueKerber) September 10, 2016
She contested a remarkable Wimbledon final before losing to Williams, went to Rio and claimed a silver medal, then capped her slam season by winning the US Open and becoming the top-ranked woman.
The victory in New York was perhaps the most impressive feat of the bunch.
Against Karolina Pliskova, Kerber was the favourite not the underdog like she was against Williams. She had just found out she had sealed the top ranking spot, went into the match knowing she lost to Pliskova just three weeks earlier in Cincinnati, was fatigued following a brutal summer of back-to-back action, and she handled it all remarkably well.
Many players have said how winning their second major was tougher than grabbing their first and Kerber was brilliant enough to follow-up her maiden success, with another one eight months later.
In a conversation with USA Today, Beltz said that the next area of focus for the team would be working on Kerber’s serve, which is arguably the weakest side of her game. It’s amazing that they are already thinking of ways for her to improve, and it is that continuous need for progress that can help Kerber maintain her place at the top.
At 28, she is the oldest first-time World No.1, and in a way, her experiencing this at a mature age is a blessing. She is capitalising on every opportunity that’s coming her way, because she knows such chances don’t come by easily.
There was one standout moment in her final with Pliskova that will be remembered for a long time. After fighting from 1-3 down in the decider against the powerful Czech, Kerber went down 0-30 on her own serve at 3-3.
She made it 30-all then unleashed a daring forehand down-the-line winner that painted the line and helped her hold serve.
“I think this shot was the key for the third set,” said Kerber later.
“When I won the point I knew ‘okay, I have the feeling’.
“I was not thinking too much that this is a final. I was just trying to take the challenge, third set, it’s 3-all, and just go for it.”
Oh the beauty of going for it!
The Djokovic-Wawrinka rivalry has arguably been the most fascinating grand slam match-up in recent years. Their matches have been close, tight, and brutal at times, but the quality of tennis has simply been outstanding.
All eyes will be on the Arthur Ashe Stadium on Sunday when World No.1 Novak Djokovic and No.3 seed Stan Wawrinka will walk out to script another epic chapter in the US Open final. After having played 24 of a possible 25 sets in their previous five grand slam meetings, the tennis fraternity is expecting nothing less than a thriller to conclude the season.
Will the favored Serb clinch his 13th Grand Slam title or will the Swiss Missile conquer Big Apple?
Here, Sport360 gives an in-depth analysis of all numbers, stats and records ahead of the final.
Who do you think has the edge going into this big game?
NUMBERS for NOLE
21 – Novak is through to his 21st grand slam final (12-8 Win-Loss record); putting him in second position in the all-time list for ‘most grand slam final appearances’. Roger Federer leads the pack with a record 27 grand slam finals.
4 – Since losing to Wawrinka at the 2015 Roland Garros final, Djokovic is on a four finals win-streak (2015 Wimbledon – 2016 French Open).
3 – With a victory in the final, Djokovic will join Federer (2006-07) as the only players to have won three grand slam titles in consecutive seasons. Novak (2011, 2015) would also join Roger (2004, 2006-07) as the only players to have won three grand slams in three distinct seasons.
7 – Novak is through to his seventh US Open final (2-4 win-loss record), tying him with Federer and Jimmy Connors (including his sixth in the last seven years). Ivan Lendl and Pete Sampras are the Open-Era leaders with eight US Open finals.
94 – This will be Djokovic’s 94th tour-level final (66 titles – 23 runner-up).
66 – This will be Djokovic’s 66th tour-level hard-court final (50 titles – 15 runner-up).
5 – A loss in the final will result in Novak becoming only the second man to lose five US Open finals – joining Lendl. Andy Murray (Australian Open) and Ivan Lendl are the only players to lose five finals at one major (Open-era).
Mats Wilander – Novak will look join Swedish legend Mats Wilander as the only players to have won the Australian/French/US Open titles in the same calendar year. Wilander achieved this feat in 1988.
13 – Djokovic will be playing in his 13th hard-court grand slam final – a new all-time record for hard-court GS finals (6 – Australian Open, 7 – US Open). He goes past Federer – who has featured in 12 hard-court finals (5 – Australian Open, 7 – US Open).
3 – A third title at Flushing Meadows for Djokovic will make him the only player after Federer to have 3+ titles at three different majors.
FED – 4 Australian Open, 7 Wimbledon, 5 US Open
NOLE – 6 Australian, 3 Wimbledon, 2 US Open
9 – A win for Djokovic will tie him with Federer for the ‘most grand slam titles on hard-courts’.
19 – Novak will be playing in his 19th grand slam final of the last 25 slams played – a staggering 76% conversion rate. Novak has featured in 7 of the last 8 slam finals and 9 of the last 11 slam finals.
48-2 – Djokovic is 48-2 in grand slam matches since the start of 2015 (five titles); only losses were 2015 Rolland Garros final to Stan Wawrinka and 2016 Wimbledon to Sam Querrey in the third round.
10 – Since losing to Federer at the 2015 Cincinnati Masters final; Novak has won his last 10 hard-court finals.
NOLE vs NO.3 RANKED PLAYERS
Djokovic is 12-10 against world No.3 ranked players in tour-level matches.
He holds a 5-2 against world No.3 ranked players in grand slam matches.
Djokovic holds a 694-100 record against players ranked below him; including a staggering 214-18 record in grand slam matches.
NOLE vs single-handed back hand – Djokovic holds a 191-50 record against players with single-handed back-hand (59-10 in slams)
NO. 1 SEED VS NO.3 SEED GRAND SLAM FINALS
The No.1 seed vs No.3 seed match-up has taken place in 12 major finals (in the Open-Era); including five times at the US Open.
No.1 seed holds a 10-2 record (4-1 at the US Open finals).
Since splitting the first four meetings, the No.1 seed is on an eight final win-streak against the No.3 seed.
LAST FINAL – 2013 Australian Open: (1) Djokovic defeated (3) Murray
LAST WIN FOR NO.3 SEED – 1983 Australian Open final: (3) Wilander defeated (1) Lendl
NUMBERS for STAN
3 – Stan will look to join Rafa Nadal (nine wins) and Federer (six wins) as the only players to beat Djokovic 3+ times in grand slams. He will join Rafa and Roger as the only players to beat Djokovic at three distinct grand slams. Roger is the only player to defeat Djokovic at all the four majors.
31-years 5 months – At 31y 5m old, Stan is bidding to become the oldest grand slam winner since Andre Agassi at the 2003 Australian Open (32y 8m). He could become the second oldest US Open champion in the Open-Era behind Aussie great Ken Rosewall who won the title at the 1970 US Open (35y 10m).
5 – Stan could become the fifth man in the Open-Era to win two or more Grand Slam titles after turning 30 (after Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, Andre Agassi and Jimmy Connors)
10 – Since losing to Nicolas Mahut in the final of the 2013 Topshelf Open (Rosmalen Grass Court Championships), Wawrinka has won his last 10 finals. This includes the 2014 Australian Open final (defeated Nadal) and the 2015 Roland Garros decider (beat Djokovic).
8 – After losing his first 3 hard-court finals, Wawrinka has won the last 8 hard-court finals (since 2011).
Saving match points – After saving a match point against Brit Dan Evans in the third round, Wawrinka has a chance to win the title on Sunday. Djokovic was the last man to save match points during a grand slam title run, achieving that feat at the 2011 US Open when he saved two match points against Federer in an all-time classic semi-final.
Late bloomer or Magnus Norman Effect – In his first 34 grand slam appearances, Stan made the quarter-finals in just two of them. In his next 13 grand slam appearances, Stan has made 3 finals, seven semi-finals and 10 quarter-finals.
12 – Wawrinka will be looking to win the US Open title on his 12th attempt. The most attempts before winning the US Open title in the Open Era is nine – jointly held by Stefan Edberg (1991) & Andre Agassi (1994).
16 – Wawrinka will be bidding to become the 16th man in the Open-Era to win three of the four grand slam titles.
22 – With a US Open title, Wawrinka will look to become the 22nd man in the Open-Era to win three or more grand slam titles.
3 – With victory on Sunday, Stan will have three distinct grand slam titles from his first three GS finals. Jimmy Connors was the last man to win his first three slam finals at three distinct slam events (1974). American legend Andre Agassi was the last man to win three distinct grand slam titles (as his first three slams).
3 – Stan will look to win his third grand slam title in his third Final. Roger Federer was the last man to win his first three grand slam finals (he won his first 7 GS finals – an all-time record).
STAN vs World No.1
Stan holds a paltry 2-19 record against World No.1 ranked players (2-4 in grand slam matches).
After losing his 15 matches against No.1 ranked players, Stan picked up his first win over a current world No.1 at the 2014 Australian Open final (defeated Nadal).
His other victory over a No.1 ranked player was at the 2015 Roland Garros final when he shocked Djokovic.
Stan holds a 93-134 record against players ranked above him; including a 21-27 record in Grand Slam matches.
Lucky 13 – After winning his 13 consecutive match against Gael Monfils, can Novak win his 13th Slam?
STAN THE MAN REPEAT – All three times Stan has reached a major final, he beat a major champion in the quarter-finals, a major finalist in the semi-finals (in 4 sets) and plays the No1 player in the final.
New world number one Angelique Kerber won the US Open title on Saturday with a battling 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 victory over Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic.
It was Kerber’s second Slam of the season after winning a first major at the Australian Open in January.
Kerber had to fight back from a break down in the final set in Arthur Ashe Stadium to win 6-3 4-6 6-4 and seal her second grand slam title this year.
Pliskova had knocked out Serena Williams in the semi-final in New York but could not manage a repeat against Kerber, who becomes the first German US Open champion since Steffi Graf in 1996.
“It’s just amazing. I won my second grand slam in one year, that’s the best year in my career,” said an emotional Kerber. “It’s actually just incredible. Everything started for me here in 2011, and now I’m here in 2016, five years later and I’m standing here with the trophy, it means so much to me.”
Kerber became the first woman to win a major without losing a set since Serena Williams at the 2014 US Open. She will rise to No1 in the world when the new rankings come out Monday, replacing Williams.
Pliskova had never made it past the third round at a major prior to this fortnight and was proud of how she competed in her maiden slam final.
“Definitely I found out that I can my best tennis on the biggest stage against the top players,” said Pliskova, who will rise to No6 in the world. “I just want to say congrats to Angie, she really proved that she is the world No1.”