Coach Patrick Mouratoglou insists Serena Williams did not lose the Australian Open final due to nerves.
Williams suffered her second successive defeat in a major, having lost in the semi-finals of the US Open last September to Roberta Vinci, where she was gunning for the calendar-year Grand Slam as well as Graf’s historic mark of 22 major tournament wins.
In the opening set against Angelique Kerber, Williams committed 23 unforced errors and struggled with her serve and her movement.
Mouratoglou, who has been working with Williams since mid-2012 and has helped her win eight of the 15 grand slams she’s entered since, said the final came down to an underdog playing with nothing to lose, against a favourite who struggled to hit her peak.
“I’ve seen Serena much tighter in some other grand slam finals. She’s human, and when you’re a big favourite in a grand slam final you are a bit nervous, if you’re not, you’re not normal,” said the Frenchman. “We just have to congratulate Angelique. She was able to play the perfect match and that was the only way to beat Serena.
“I think she was a bit tight, but I think everybody is when you play a grand slam final and when you have a lot to lose compared to a player who plays against someone who is supposedly unbeatable.”
Mouratoglou defended Williams’ strategy of frequently coming to the net, a tactic that was only successful on 15 of 32 approaches.
“There are so many high balls, so many balls floating in the air that she can finish,” he added. “It makes complete sense to come to the net.”
Looking ahead, Mouratoglou said there were still lots of improvements Williams can make.
“There is still work and it’s good because when she’ll be able to do that, she’ll be even more difficult,” he said. “She can still improve a lot. If she couldn’t, she’d stop.”
Angelique Kerber does not know what awaits her as she faces the world now as a grand slam champion, but she’s excited to find out.
The 28-year-old stunned Serena Williams in the Australian Open final to become the first German to win a major this century and vault up the rankings to No. 2 in the world.
Kerber didn’t sleep a wink the Saturday night after the final as she celebrated with her team before jumping into Melbourne’s Yarra River early in the morning, fulfilling a bet that she would take the plunge should she win the title.
She then went back to her hotel for hair and makeup before heading to the Government House for her official trophy photo-shoot. Her life will not slow down for a while. Asked if she had any clue on what kind of expectations people will now have of her, Kerber said: “I have no idea. I don’t know also what will come in Germany.
“I know I got so many messages. I know that I will make a lot of media and press when I go back but I think I deserve it. I’m looking forward to it. I will take every experience with me for the next challenges I will face in the tournaments. But right now I’ll just focus on the moment, enjoying everything and then let’s see what happens because I have no idea, I was never in this situation.”
Kerber’s journey has been about perseverance, as she constantly searched for the self-belief she knew she lacked.
“I’m not the easiest person sometimes. I had also a few downs where I was not believing in myself,” she admits. Now that she has conquered her demons and taken out two tournament favourites in Victoria Azarenka and Williams en route to the title, what message does she think her triumph can convey to the world?
“I think the message from me is that you can work very hard and some day the work will pay off,” said Kerber. “Just follow your dreams and be patient. You will always have up and downs in your life, in your career and just stay positive and just go for it.
“Just do what you love, and that’s what I’m doing. Now my dream has come true so that’s the message I can give out to everybody.”
Williams joked she had better watch her back now that Kerber was at No. 2 and could be gunning for top spot. But while world No1 is a dream for the champion, she isn’t obsessing over it.
“My dream was always to win the grand slam and my second dream was to be No. 1. So I think the first dream, I’m done already and the next one will be No. 1. But it’s still so far and Serena is still the best player in the world, she wins every tournament she plays. That’s actually so far for me,” said Kerber. “If the day comes and I will be No. 1 that’s great, but for me the biggest dream was to win a grand slam and I did it.”
Kerber explained how she played mind games with herself in order to treat the Australian Open like any other competition in order to try and perform as well here as she has done in smaller tournaments. At the slams, she would usually change her routine, avoid staying at the official hotel, not eat at the players’ restaurant… but in the past two weeks in Melbourne, she decided she wasn’t going to complicate things anymore.
“At the slams, I’m not the same player, that’s true,” Kerber confessed. “That changed after the first round (where she saved a match point against Misaki Doi). I didn’t have the pressure anymore. “I remembered in 2015 I lost in the first round. After this year’s first round I was telling myself not to think it’s a grand slam, think that it’s Brisbane, and that helped me.
“I was trying to stay relaxed, stay like I am, not thinking too much to make things complicated. I was staying in the official hotel, and going to the players’ restaurant like in the smaller tournaments.”
The trick worked and she’s now champion. Would Kerber want to face Williams in a slam final again?
“Of course. She’s challenging you to play the best and this is what you as an athlete would like to show people,” she said. “To play Serena is always a challenge so I’d like to do it again.”
As far as grand slam finals go, Sunday’s Australian Open match between Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray was definitely a forgettable one.
While the similarity in their playing styles never really made for a compelling match-up, Sunday’s clash was particularly lifeless.
It was riddled with unforced errors (65 from Murray and 41 from Djokovic), had endless rallies that mostly felt like they had no purpose, and lacked consistent energy throughout the three hours.
Murray and the net should go out on a date. He's hit on that thing so many times today, it's only polite at this point.— Reem Abulleil (@ReemAbulleil) January 31, 2016
It was clear from the start that Murray was struggling with his focus as he hit more balls into the net than a footballer practicing penalty kicks in front of an empty goal. It felt like he used up all his mental capacity to power through to the final and there was nothing left when he got there.
Granted, Murray tried to fight in the second and third sets, but it also has to be said that after a dreary opener, he managed to lull Djokovic into a level of mediocrity that evened things up a bit.
Besides the high error count, Murray’s second serve stats need a serious looking at.
The world No2 could only win 14 of 40 points he played on his second serve which is never going to cut it against someone like Djokovic. It would be harsh to make any judgments on how close or far Murray is right now from Djokovic as the Scot clearly had a lot of off-court issues to deal with this fortnight.
He did well enough to make the final and will now take a much-deserved offseason break which he had always meant to take in February.
The biggest takeaway from this Australian Open – and the first four weeks of the season in general – is that Djokovic is pulling further and further away from the rest.
He has convincingly beaten Rafael Nadal (in the Doha final), Roger Federer (in the Melbourne semis) and now Murray, without breaking a sweat and has two titles in the bag and it’s only February 1.
The fact that he can hit 100 unforced errors in a match and still win it, like he did against Gilles Simon in the fourth round, really makes me wonder who could actually beat him? Djokovic keeps repeating the word “holistic” any chance he gets, to describe the approach he is taking to his life and his sport.
He does yoga, is obsessive with his diet, reads psychology books, and is super-meticulous with every aspect of his day-to-day life.
It’s all taking him to unthinkable heights and it’s tough seeing anyone catching up this season.
Sure you can have one match where someone like Stan Wawrinka overpowers him and takes his chances against him but the way things are looking, very few players are successfully able to take their chances when they face the world No1. Just ask Simon.
Other takeaways from Melbourne? Milos Raonic is definitely one to watch this year, given he takes care of his body.
Kei Nishikori played a brilliant match against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the fourth round before falling flat against Djokovic. The Japanese is an exciting presence at the top and with some health and consistency can reach another major final.
Nadal had a bad draw and ended up with the wooden spoon. It will be key for him to rebound on the South American clay to win some matches and get some confidence.
As for Murray, we’ll see him on the other side after he’s become a father.