During the last couple of weeks all the tennis fans were discussing the same topic: German Angelique Kerber becoming the World No1 female player. Of course there was no surprise because already before the Premier series WTA tournament in New Haven, held just before the US Open, it was clear that she could rise to the top position of the women's rankings. To do this Angelique had to win the tournament. It didn't happen that week. Kerber was stopped in the final by Czech star Karolina Pliskova, who, by the way, was also waiting for the German in the final match at Flushing Meadows two weeks later. In New Haven Pliskova was better, showing extraordinary level of tennis and mental strength, just as she did in New York. «Never mind, – said Kerber, - it didn't go my way today, so I will make it happen tomorrow». And again she proved that she fully deserves all her titles by winning a three-set final of the last Grand Slam of the year and the crown of the World No 1.
Some people keep bragging that they always knew she would become the best player of the WTA Tour, others say they did not see it coming… “If two years ago someone told me that Kerber is going to become number one, I would never believe it!” As far as my opinion goes I wouldn’t necessarily agree with one group or another. I know Angelique personally for quite a few years. Did I think that she is going to replace Serena Williams on the pedestal? Probably not. But it was clear for me that potentially she is a player of a highest level. It’s obvious that she has quite a few very important qualities, which, on my opinion, distinguish her from many other good players and helped her to become so successful. Many athletes have some of these qualities but I think it’s a combination of them that makes it so unique. So what is Angelique’s strength?
Probably the main thing that helps the German find the way out from almost any difficult situations is her self-confidence and belief that she is better then others. She doesn’t think that other players are not good enough, and this is a very important detail. She doesn’t put down her opponents but she rises herself above their level, That’s why when things get tight she always tells herself that she is going to make it, because, no matter how good did the other girl play, Kerber has no doubt: her answer will be even better.
Next thing I would mention is that everything this German player does on and off the court is very consistent. For many years Kerber is working with the same team. Sometimes there are new members coming in but the main figures stay unchanged. It tells a lot. The same principle works when she is performing. Over and over again with famous German preciseness Angelique keeps following her plan and destroying her opponent’s game. Someone might call it the lack of improvising but I’d rather refer to the great discipline, which is so important in tennis. On my opinion this is one of the main reasons why Kerber is showing so stable results during the last couple of years.
Another important quality that stands out when you look at the new number one is her ability and desire to work hard. Of course Angelique is very talented, but on the same time she has been working hard on her fitness, and it gave her the chance to make a very big step few years ago, when she had her break through. She keeps improving her physical shape. Whereas earlier, when speaking about Kerber, most of tennis coaches would mention that she should lose couple of kilos, now she is probably one of the most athletic players on the WTA Tour.
We move on to the next topic, which is anticipation. Sometimes it looks like, every time the girl on the other side of the net hits the shot, the German is already staying there and waiting for the ball to come. I must say that this quality is something most of the top players have. It’s enough to remember Martina Hingis, Serena Williams… They also seem to run “less then others”. Even though Angelique is playing very good on the run, she saves her energy by reading the game. It gives her the chance to take time from her opponent and to be one step in front.
And of course I should not forget about her inner calmness. During the last years Kerber had quite a few matches when the momentum was shifting there and back many times. As an example we could use any of her meetings with Simona Halep. These two players always play those long three-set matches keeping the spectators intrigued until the end. Very often you could see how Kerber gets tight. But in that situation she always finds the strength to keep calm and continue fighting no matter if some things are not going her way on this particular day. When the score is close and every point counts this is what makes a big difference.
Of course it’s by far not the complete list. We could speak about the technical stuff, how she is using the fact that she is a left-hander, how low she sits on the ground, which gives her a great balance and helps her play the difficult shots... But I still think that her self-belief is what makes Angelique Kerber different from all the other players. And I would say that’s the main thing that the young generation should learn from the new World No. 1.