Monday 23 April 2018

Angelique Kerber reveals how text message from Steffi Graf inspired her US Open triumph

Angelique Kerber (GER) poses with the trophy after her triumph last night
Angelique Kerber (GER) poses with the trophy after her triumph last night

Tom Allnutt

Angelique Kerber has revealed how a good-luck message from Steffi Graf inspired her to US Open glory.

Kerber beat Karolina Pliskova 6-3 4-6 6-4 in Arthur Ashe Stadium on Saturday to edge a nail-biting final and seal her second grand slam title this year.

The success caps a superb 12 months for Kerber, who clinched her first major triumph at the Australian Open in January, reached the Wimbledon final this summer and will become world number one on Monday.

She also becomes the first German US Open champion since Graf in 1996.

Kerber and Graf have become friends in recent years and they spent some time practising together in Las Vegas at the end of last season.

The 28-year-old has returned the favour in New York as her victory preserves two of Graf's long-lasting records.

If Serena Williams had been crowned champion, the American would have overtaken Graf's Open-era best 22 grand slam titles as well as her unbeaten 186 consecutive weeks at number one. Instead, Williams and Graf remain tied on both.

Kerber has kept in close touch with Graf and says she received a text from her before her latest success.

"I used to watch a lot of her matches and I remember that all the matches were very fast. This is what I remember," Kerber said.

"I heard from her yesterday (Friday) or like two days ago. She was wishing me luck for the final.

"Right now I don't know if she has messaged me because my phone is somewhere, so I don't know how many messages I have now.

"But she was always my idol and I told her that so many times. She's a great champion as well.

"For me it's really important to go on my own way and to have her in Germany with all the things she did for tennis, it's just amazing."

Kerber takes home the winners' cheque for 3.5million US dollars and becomes the first woman, other than Williams, to win two grand slams in a year since Justine Henin in 2007. Her rivalry with the American may be just beginning.

Pliskova arrived in the final on the back of an 11-match winning streak and also having beaten Kerber in the final at Cincinnati last month. Kerber said she was pleased with how she handled the pressure.

"What's happened in the last two weeks, it's just incredible," Kerber said.

"Also, how I was dealing with the pressure when I came here and everybody was asking me about the number one.

"This was what I was trying to improve with the pressure and also today, it's always tough to go in the final when I know the opponent beat me like two or three weeks ago.

"That was also a challenge and I told myself, 'OK, I will do everything on court today to win the match against Karolina'."

Pliskova had never gone past the third round of a major tournament before but she pushed her opponent all the way with her power from the baseline and blistering serve.

The world number 11, who will rise to sixth, ultimately came up short in the decider, however, as Kerber's experience and stamina proved decisive.

"She has more experience to play those finals than me so that probably decided this match," Pliskova said.

"Definitely she played a few finals of grand slams already. I would say she maybe felt a little bit, at least in the beginning of the match, better. I did a few mistakes.

"But then it was very close. I was still trying to be aggressive. It's never easy for the player who is attacking and is doing more mistakes.

"It's more tough to do the points, especially if it's close and you really have to push it really hard to make the winner in the end."

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