The woman who had the WTA talking with her 2 GS wins, also ended the year at the top and she was not Serena Williams! The year 2016 belonged wholly and completely to the German pro Angelique Kerber. The 29 year old made her debut in the 2003. In 2011, she reached the semi-finals of the US Open being ranked as low as 92. From there on, her hunger for more developed. The more she fed the hunger, the more it grew. Her perseverance finally paid off in 2016.
Having won 2 of the 4 slams of the year, Kerber had a very successful 2016. A rather dream run for a person entering a slam final for the first time, she defeated the 2-time defending champion, Victoria Azarenka in the quarter finals and the then World no.1 Serena Williams, who seemed practically undefeatable, in the finals, handing her the first loss of 2016. Apart from these, some other jewels in her crown of 2016 include entering the finals of the Wimbledon Championships and the WTA Championship Finals. She has been one of the top players for quite some time but in 2016, she dethroned Serena Williams to become the new queen of the WTA circuit, also becoming the oldest first timer to clench the World No.1 title.
This German player, known for her aggressive counter-punching game, likes to play fast-paced matches. She does not attack her opponents as often but tires them out enough to have them gift her some points. Having her physical game very strong with the help of her well-developed body, she is always ready for an on-court war. For once, we could call her the female-Nadal owing to her fight-for-the-point and never-give-up attitude.
A loophole in her game is not going for the finishing shot as often as she should. She does not take the opportunities as they come. Even when she has the opportunity to end the point, she stretches it. She does not have an impressive arsenal of finishing strokes. Also, she fails to take full advantage of being a left-handed player. She could easily take a player out of the court on the ad-court with the help of a slice serve, which would be a great advantage as all the game points start on the ad-court except 40-15. Women’s circuit does not have a large number of left-handers and hence, this could really help Kerber breeze through easily.
When she talked about “playing my game”, she no longer meant her defending and retrieving game. She talked of a more dictating game, one that she, very meticulously displayed all through the season. She did not turn into an all-out attacker but she improved her opportunity-bagging skills in 2016. Being a left-hander, her down-the-line forehand has always been an object of surprise for her opponents. Just like in the US Open final, when Karolina Pliskova was gaining her momentum in a point late in the 3rd set, Angelique Kerber stopped her dead in the tracks by an unexpected down-the-line forehand and completely shattered the little momentum the Czech had gained. On many other instances, this weapon of hers has come to her rescue.
The Key of Consistency
Kerber has had a pretty constant form for quite a while now. She has entered deep into tournaments consistently. Before 2016, her best result in the Grand Slams was making the semi-finals at the 2012 Wimbledon Championship. She reached her maiden slam final at the 2016 Australian Open and she succeeded in converting it to her first Slam. The only dark part of her 2016 run was the opening round exit at the Roland Garros. She entered the finals of the remaining slams along with the WTA Championship Finals and won the US Open.
At the beginning of 2016, if asked, “Who would replace Serena Williams as the World No.1?” the answer would either be Victoria Azarenka, Garbine Muguruza or Simona Halep. the name of Angelique Kerber would not even have crossed the mind of many, if not all. Neither had she been a finalist before nor did she have the kind of defensive game that one could associate with Slam wins. But she proved everyone wrong by winning her first slam as soon as the season began. The form that she carried with her for the rest of the year has given out a clear message that she will not be just another One Year Wonder.
Though often, she finds it difficult to impose herself on the opponent and relies on them to take a miss. But with a little improvement in the aggression and attack department, Kerber could easily dominate the circuit. With Serena losing her charm and the new generation struggling to manage consistency in form, Kerber could really use this transition period and give us repeat of 2016.
Beginning of an Era for Angelique Kerber?
Usually, in the late 20s, a career begins to end but it seems like things have just about begun for Angelique Kerber. She has embraced every challenge that has come her way and overcome quite a few of them. She never gave up, no matter what and this trait of hers is one of the key reasons behind her being at the top.
She displayed amazing form in 2016, winning the Olympic Silver medal besides 2 other WTA titles. Considering her incredible form, a great season is expected from her in 2017. Having a lot to defend, including the World No.1 crown, her fans would expect Kerber to kick it off right from the start of the season and maintain it till the very end.