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Everyone told me to enjoy the match but I wanted to win
Interview by Stern, translation by Tennis Buzz
After her Australian Open victory, Angelique Kerber is at the zenith of her career and in the footsteps of her idol Steffi Graf. “Everything that happened for the last two weeks is amazing”, said Kerber after her surprising triumph in the final against world number one Serena Williams.
The following night was short for Angelique Kerber. The new world number two did not sleep a wink. The day after her big win in Melbourne, she did attend various press events and jumped into the Yarra river.
How was your night and when did you leave the stadium on Saturday?
I have not slept a minute. I think it was something like three o’clock when I left the stadium. I did four hours of press. Then I had the doping test, and after that we came back to the hotel. I got changed quickly and we went out. And here I am.
Have you any idea of what awaits you in Germany now?
I know that when I land on Monday morning in Francfort, something is being organized. What exactly, I don’t know yet. Then I’ll definitely spend Monday night with my family and friends and go eat something. And on Tuesday I’ll go Leipzig for Fed Cup. For sure, lots more will happen to me.
If you had to give an explanation on this success, what would it be?
I really think the explanation is that I believed in me. I always have, but never as I did after the match against Victoria Azarenka in the quarterfinals, it was new.
Somehow it made something ‘click’. Even when I went against Serena, I said, I want to win this thing. Everybody told me I should just enjoy it and just play a good match. But I said myself: to enjoy it is good, but you can enjoy it afterwards. You go out there and try, and make the best of the chances you get.
And you succeeded…
Yes, I really did. I don’t know how I managed it, but I believed in me. I think this was the key to victory. I enjoyed the whole two weeks, but I wanted to show that I was worthy of the final and that I wanted to defeat her.
If you look back at your beginnings, what is the biggest step you made since then?
I think the whole experience I’ve made since then helps me now and for the future. Now I’m ready to really enjoy it. If I had won two or three years ago, I don’t know if I would have enjoyed and experienced it as I do now. Now I know, thanks to the tournaments I won before, what will happen to me.
It has often been said, that of this generation of you, Andrea Petkovic and Sabine Lisicki, nobody will make it and win a Grand Slam. Why did you managed it?
This is hard to say. I think I’ve experienced so many things in the last two weeks. I also learned you don’t need to play your best tennis two weeks long. But you have to believe in you for two weeks. You also need a little luck.
I simply believe that the time has come. I’ve always said, when the time comes, I’ll win something big. And I’ve just done it. Lots of people didn’t believe in but I think now, I don’t need to prove anything to anyone.
I am the world number two and I won a Grand Slam title. What more?
Do you think you will be perceived differently now on the tour? After all you are now a Grand Slam champion.
I don’t think a lot will change. I am curious, but I’m looking forward. Now I reached a high point in my career. I’m curious to see how things will change and how people react. It’s something different now. There are not many Grand Slam winners.
Is it even more special to win the title against Serena Williams?
In any case, that means a lot to me. Serena is an absolute champion, she wrote history and is a huge inspiration for me. To play against her is always something special. To face her in the final is an absolute honor, and to have played a good match makes the title even more special.
— British Tennis (@BritishTennis) January 30, 2016
Andy Murray was in the stands to watch his brother’s victory:
— British Tennis (@BritishTennis) January 30, 2016
Photo credit: Darren Nunis
Interview by l’Equipe, translation by Tennis Buzz:
Q: Do yo remember exactly your route to victory here in 2006?
Ouch! (Thinking…) I start with the Chinese Sun. Right? Then Emilie (Loit), and Krajicek who retires. And in the fourth round, who was it? That’s right, Vaidisova! And then I defeat Patty (Schnyder) in the quarterfinals, Kim (Clijsters) in semis and Justine (Henin) in the final.
Q: Do you remember the score of the shortened final?
6-1 2-0 30-0.
Q: After the final, everybody critizices Henin’s attitude. Mats Wilander says “Even crawling she should have finished the match”. But you don’t say anything.
I only do realize that the next day. And suddenly I feel bad. And I say to myself: “But wait, she did that! She only had 3 or 4 more games to play. And she stopped.” Yet she was not dying. You can not do that.
Q: Have you forgiven her?
It took time. When I was still playing, not really. She stole me a moment. And moments like that are rare.
Q: Did she apologize?
Q: Your coach Loic Courteau was annoyed because all the emotion could not get out. And you?
Yes, of course, but I was so sure this tournament was for me. Withdrawal or not, in my opinion I was better.
Q: Did you have the same feeling, six months later in Wimbledon, that the tournament was for you?
Not at all. I was not playing as well at Wimbledon. The final was not good. In Melbourne, before the final, I had no doubt, no stress. Unlike the Wimbledon final, where I hardly slept the night before.
Q: From when did you feel that superiority in Melbourne?
Not immediately. But after my win against Vaidisova and my big match against Patty. Against her, even I won often, it was always tough. But that time, I did dominate her physically and tactically.
Q: Would you have won the tournament if you had not win the Masters in 2015?
It’s related. The Masters are a real trigger. I experienced these Masters a bit like my first Grand Slam. I surfed on that confidence. The winter that following, during preparation, I played like crazy. The practice sessions (lots of them with Alexandre Sidorenko who won the boys’ title the same day as Mauresmo) were amazing.
Q: Yet a few weeks before the Masters, you had reached a low point.
The match agasint Mary Pierce at the US Open had killed me (a 6-4 6-1 loss in the quarterfinals). After the match, I thought “I can’t do it against hard-hitting players. I don’t return as well as these players. I can’t do it.” Mary, Davenport, Venus, Serena, it was going too fast for me. Even Justine who could do more things chose that playing style. Was there some place for me? For change of pace, variation? I asked myself a lot of questions. We thought about it with Lolo (Courteau) and we decided to go to the net even more. But I play two disastrous tournaments, Moscow and Zurich. I win one or two games a set (she loses 6-1 6-1 to Schiavone in Moscow and 6-2 6-0 to Srebotnik in Zurich). I keep questioning myself: I’m 26 and except Novotna, there is no female player winning a first Grand Slam title at that age.
Q: You do not have always known you were a champion
That’s right. I fought against a lot of things related to our sporting culture in France, to our approach to winning or rather our non-approach.
Q: Also fight the “She has a nice game” cliché
Technically, my forehand was not really good, but people said: “She has a nice backhand, she varies her shots, she volleyes”. Efficiency is not a priority in France. I can feel the difference with Andy (Murray) and even before when I worked with Azarenka.
Q: By winning in Melbourne you also get rid of another weight, that of being labeled as the world number one who had not won a Grand Slam. Was it important?
I was eager to put an end to this discussion. But it was not a suffering.
Q: At the 2006 Australian Open, three players retire against you, but you also had big problems..
The morning of my match against Vaidisova, I wake up and I’m panicked. My neck is blocked, I’m upset. I call Michel (Franco, her physiotherapist), he massages me, he does what he can. I play suffering, serving at 130 km/h, but Vaidisova commits lots of unforced errors. That year it is very hot. In the semi finals, with Kim, we play a big match, very physical. We play indoor because it is 40 °C. She twists her ankle because she is tired; back to the hotel, I fainted. The next day I did not come to hit at the stadium.
Q: In 1999, you had also reached the final in Melbourne..
Yes, but in the game, I do not really know why. My game was very instinctive. I do not even know how I was playing back then. In 2006 my game was in place.
Q: You keep good memories of the Château d’Yquem 1937 you drank to celebrate your victory
In fact we drunk it during the summer of 2007. It was excellent.
Even though there has been a lot of talks prior the Australian Open about Serena’s form, her presence in the final is all but a surprise. On the other hand, Angelique Kerber’s run to the final is quite unexpected.
Serena Williams’ road to the final
Serena‘s toughest match to advance to the final was her first round victory over the unpredictable Italian Camila Giorgi: she lost 9 games, the same number of games she lost to Maria Sharapova and Agnieszka Radwanska, combined! She’ll be the heavy favorite against first time Grand Slam finalist Angelique Kerber.
|R1||Camila Giorgi||6-4 7-5|
|R2||Su-Wei Hsieh||6-1 6-2|
|R3||Daria Kasatkina||6-1 6-1|
|R4||Margarita Gasparyan||6-2 6-1|
|QF||Maria Sharapova ||6-4 6-1|
|SF||Agnieszka Radwanska ||6-0 6-4|
Angelique Kerber’s road to the final
Angelique Kerber saved a match point to get past Misaki Doi in the first round and then never looked back. She beat only one seed en route to the final: Victoria Azarenka that many saw as Serena’s main rival in Melbourne.
|R1||Misaki Doi||6-7 7-6 6-3|
|R2||Alexandra Dulgheru||6-2 6-4|
|R3||Madison Brengle||6-1 6-3|
|R4||Annika Beck||6-4 6-0|
|QF||Victoria Azarenka ||6-3 7-5|
|SF||Johanna Konta||7-5 6-2|
Serena Williams – Angelique Kerber head to head: 5-1
Serena and Angelique met six times, each time on hard court:
|2007||US Open R1||Hard||Serena Williams||6-3 7-5|
|2012||Cincinnati QF||Hard||Angelique Kerber||6-4 6-4|
|2012||WTA Championships R1||Hard||Serena Williams||6-4 6-1|
|2013||WTA Championships R1||Hard||Serena Williams||6-3 6-1|
|2014||Miami QF||Hard||Serena Williams||6-2 6-2|
|2014||Stanford F||Hard||Serena Williams||7-6 6-3|
Only three players have beaten in a Grand Slam final so far: her sister Venus (2001 US Open and Wimbledon 2008), Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon in 2004 and Sam Stosur at the 2011 US Open. Will Angelique Kerber be the fourth?
Who will be the 2016 Australian Open champion?
- Serena Williams (38%, 41 Votes)
- Maria Sharapova (22%, 24 Votes)
- Other (14%, 15 Votes)
- Garbine Muguruza (9%, 10 Votes)
- Agnieszka Radwanska (7%, 8 Votes)
- Angelique Kerber (5%, 5 Votes)
- Simona Halep (2%, 2 Votes)
- Karolina Pliskova (1%, 1 Votes)
- Petra Kvitova (1%, 1 Votes)
- Venus Williams (0%, 0 Votes)
- Timea Bacsinszky (0%, 0 Votes)
Total Voters: 107