Jan/18

21

Super Angelique Returns

aus13

by Louise Belcourt

Just over a year ago Angelique Kerber had the tennis world at her feet. With 2 grand slam titles in 2016, a silver gold medal in the Rio Olympics and the world number 1 ranking, everyone thought she would surely take over the reins of an aging Serena Williams. In fact to win the 2016 Australian Open she defeated Serena, arguably the best ever women’s player to win her first Grand Slam.

But 2017 was a horror year for the German.

A year in which she lost twice in the 1st round of 2 grand slams and did not get passed the 4th round in the other 2. She reached only 1 WTA tour final in Monterrey, where she lost to Pavlyuchenkova. One had to wonder did the pre-2016 Kerber with all those self-doubts resurface? Would she ever remember how to be aggressive on-court and believe in herself?

2018 has seen a change in coach, mental attitude, self-belief and inevitably different results. After seeking out a German speaking coach, she recently joined forces with Wim Fissette, resulting in winning all 12 matches she’s played in 2018. Including 4 wins at the Hopman Cup in Perth, and 5 wins on the way to the Sydney International title defeating in-form Venus Williams en-route.

Having not lost more than 5 games in each of her 3 matches at the Australian Open, the just-turned 30 year old is looking like the player to beat for the title. She dismantled former Australian Open champion Maria Sharapova 6-1 6-3 in the 3rd round. In that match Kerber was noticeably more focused and aggressive, and didn’t give Sharapova a chance in the match.

Of Kerber’s game Sharapova said “I think she played extremely well. She was the more aggressive player. She took a lot more risk than I did.”

Kerber said after the match “I was trying to starting from the first point to being aggressive, but also staying really focused on my game, playing every single point.”

Of her change in 2018 Kerber said “I wanted also to improve my game, to being more aggressive, also taking the ball in my hands like the point.. .I think just enjoying my tennis, fighting until every single ball, not thinking too much what’s happen around, against who I’m playing, all the things which are beside the court.”

Kerber’s 4th round opponent is the surprise packet of the tournament Su-Wei Hsieh. An unorthodox player with a lot of slice and little backswing on her groundstrokes. Ranked 88th in the world she comes into the match also with new found confidence having defeated high calibre opponents Muguruza and Radwanska in the previous 2 rounds to reach the 4th round of the Australian Open for only the second time (the last time being 10 years ago).

Will the diminutive strategist from Taiwan upset the red hot powerful German? With Kerber’s new found confidence, sharpness and past experience one would doubt it, but I’m sure it will make for an entertaining match.

So can the 21st seed turn back time to 2 years ago and win the Australian Open? With no other grand slam champions left in the draw, things are looking increasingly likely for her to once again lift another Australian Open trophy.

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4 comments

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 21, 2018 at 6:46 pm

    Kerber looks super fit and very thin. She will be tough to beat.

  • Joe Blow · January 21, 2018 at 8:04 pm

    Kerber won’t be able to hang with Keys. Keys will hit her off the court

  • catherine · January 22, 2018 at 2:33 am

    Well, Hsieh had Kerber in a tangle there for a while, as I expect Angie’s opponents observed with interest.

    This year she hasn’t yet played anyone ranked above her except Barty, who seems to be in a dip, and prospective threats like Muguruza, who has tested her in the past, is MIA.

    As I’ve said before, and others have noticed, Angie’s English really is extraordinary – unusual for a German because Germans usually pick up the patterns of English pretty well. I wouldn’t want to make any guesses as to the reason but I’m sure there is one and I’m also sure it is related to the way she plays tennis and the frailties which have unravelled her in the past.

    Scoop – don’t think Angie’s thin – she looks stocky to me, more so than in 2016, as if she’s hit the gym. Certainly very fit.

    Joe – just depends how Maddie’s feeling. She can get stuck in one gear and if that’s not working Angie will beat her. I feel Angie is always more more likely to lose to someone who can keep her running and give her time to start doubting herself, like Svitolina or Halep. Or Pav, who in the past gave Angie fits.

  • catherine · January 22, 2018 at 2:55 am

    Hsieh ran out of puff at the end of the match but she showed the right tactics – got Angie second guessing and all over the place with cunning play. Very interesting match.

    That’s where I think players who try to hit Kerber off the court go wrong – it’s a strategy she understands and has the power to counterract.

    Garcia needs a new coach.

    Strycova v Pliskova will have undercurrents since Karolina nicked Strycova’s coach recently and the two are not bfs. Pliskova should win but the handshake could be worth watching.

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