For the first five years of her career Angelique Kerber did not manage to win a title. Over the years, the 28 year old German -who turned professional back in 2003- has been a force to reckon with at non-slam events. At the slams, while she did have some good wins on-and-off (the one against Sharapova at Wimbledon 2014 comes to mind), those were few and far between.
At this year’s Australian Open it was a different narrative for Kerber. The pre-tournament favourites were Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka (winner at the Brisbane event prior to the AO). That Kerber defeated Azarenka and Williams on the way to clinching the title is a truly powerful statement. Prior to the Open Kerber did not have a win over Azarenka; she had beaten Williams once back in 2012.
Kerber always had spectacular defense; her lefty forehand was lethal, and she could play an aggressive game. It was a tad surprising to see her not bring that style to the table often before, especially in the big matches. She got all her ammunition against Serena in the finals; her forehand was formidable and helped her keep the ball deep, her backhand consistent and reliable as ever, and her defense impenetrable. At Melbourne, Kerber saved a match point in her first round match against Misaki Doi.
The final not just showcased great tennis (my match of the tournament), it also showed Serena in great light. Williams was sportspersonship personified after her loss; gracious and sweet. For a fleeting moment I felt she was relieved to lose here. Now perhaps she can focus on each of the remaining slams individually and not head to Paris worrying about the Calendar Slam or Golden Slam. As for Kerber, she has the perfect game for clay.