Angelique Kerber Clinches the 2016 Australian Open Title

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.

Random Pre-French Open 2014 Thoughts

Random Pre-French Open Thoughts (in no particular order):

  1. Will this be the year Halep will win a slam? She says clay is her favourite surface. If fit , she could go deep in the tournament.
  2. Maria could do well too, if Serena is not in her path. Plus, her serve should not desert her, as it sometimes does during key matches.
  3. Is Victoria coming to Paris? Her injury seems to be quite serious.
  4. So Aga Radwanska went to Melbourne as one of the contenders and then was blown away by Dominika. Does Aga’s lack of actual weapons hurt her at Slams? After all, there is only so much of counter-punching one can do and expect grand success at slams. Aga is sometimes compared to Hingis. Perhaps, she is not as crafty as the Swiss Miss.
  5. How fit is Serena? Judging from her first match at Rome against Petkovic, she looked good. She was playing with ease an moving very well. A third title at Paris would be welcome.
  6. So is Rafa’s aura on clay finally diminishing? He started strongly against Almagro at Barcelona and then lost the plot; eked out a win against Kei in the Madrid Masters final, where the latter was playing lights-out Djokovic-style tennis and for the most part seemed to be the better player on the day.
  7. Wrist injuries are tough to heal from; it is a slow and painful (ask Potro). So how fit is Novak? Does playing Rome give him enough match practice for the French Open? He can definitely play himself into form at Paris, but needs a benevolent draw at the French capital.
  8. Can Wawrinka do what Roger and Rafa could not? Courier could. Winning the Australian Open and French Open the same year was a great feat the American¬†achieved in 1991 and 1992. This does not exactly have the glitter of a Channel Slam (French Open+Wimbledon) but doing so would assure Wawrinka’s place in history books.
  9. Roger travels to Paris with very less match practice and dark circles under his eyes. The defeat to Chardy did not perturb him much. Roger, in the past, has missed warm-up tournaments and managed to win grand-slam titles. Plus, he is a fine clay-courter. So cannot rule out the happy new dad.
  10. Who are the dark horses? Dimitrov, Gulbis and Nishikori among men and Stosur and Ivanovic in the ladies draw?