Steffi Graf’s Open Era record 22 Major singles titles is safe…for now. Her German countrywoman, Angelique Kerber, denied Serena Williams’ bid to match Graf atop the Major mountain with a 6-4 3-6 6-4 victory that stunned the tennis world. Sure, Angie had beaten Serena before, at the 2012 Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati. But since then, Williams hadn’t lost a set to Kerber and led their head to head 5-1 going into the Melbourne final. This is a better Kerber. She’s in better shape as well as flattening out some shots for more pace, especially her serve, which is seen as a weakness. She’s also getting more depth and power since adding gut strings in a mix with her poly strings. The German star put it all together to win her first Major singles title and rise to world #2. Not only that, but if this is real, if Angie has raised her game to the point where she can play like this on a consistent basis, it’s good for the game. If you are a Serena fan, maybe you don’t care if she’s virtually unopposed on her way to winning Majors. However, if you are a tennis fan you want actual competition. It can’t just be Serena alone on top and everybody else is just there to sell tickets for two weeks. Maria Sharapova’s game doesn’t bother Serena. Petra Kvitova has the game to challenge Williams, but not the consistency to get to finals as often as she should. Victoria Azarenka shows flashes of what she’s capable of doing, but isn’t quite 100% back to where she once was. Now that Angie has a Major win and has risen to world #2, maybe she’s the one to give Serena a run for her money.
I guess we’ll see how Kerber follows this up. For today, we should just let her enjoy the biggest tennis victory of her life. She is the first German, male or female, to win a Major since Steffi Graf won Roland Garros 1999. She’ll take home $3.4 million Australian dollars (about $2.4 million USD) for the win. This is all the more impressive considering that despite her high ranking, the Majors have not been kind ot Angie. Not only was this her first Major final, she was often an early victim in Majors past, including last year when she lost in the first round of the 2015 Australian Open. She almost was out in the first round this year, when Misaki Doi held a match point against Kerber but couldn’t convert. It’s similar to when Li Na fought off a match point against Lucie Safarova in the 2014 Australian Open (third round) and then went on to win the tournament. So congratulations to Angelique Kerber on a well-earned, hard fought victory. Hopefully, this is just a taste of things to come.
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7 ANGELIQUE KERBER d. 1 Serena Williams, 6-4 3-6 6-4