Here’s what the left-handed Angelique Kerber was up against when she walked in to the Rod Laver Arena for the final:
· She had beaten Serena Williams only once, in Cincinnati in 2012. The World No. 1 won their next four meetings without dropping a set.
· Serena Williams had won each of her last eight finals and has an overall record of 21-4 in Grand Slam finals.
· Angelique Kerber’s previous best Grand Slam performances were semi-final appearances in US Open 2011 and Wimbledon 2012.
Angelique Kerber’s belief and confidence surprised a lot of people, not the least being Serena Williams herself and tennis legend Chris Evert. A lot of players tend to tighten up against Serena Williams’ powerful presence across the net and let her off the hook because they would not believe they could actually beat her in a final.
But a chat with Steffi Graf appears to have made a difference.
The German legend, whose haul of 22 majors Serena Williams was seeking to equal, was a major influence on Angelique Kerber who barely survived the first round against Misaki Doi. Steffi Graf told the 28-year-old that if she continued to work hard and had a positive outlook, the dark days when she lost 11 matches in-a-row in 2011 would become a distant memory.
“Sometimes I was not believing too much in myself,” Angelique Kerber said. “Here it’s changed everything. My coaches and everybody, yeah, they saw that I played very good in the practice. They couldn’t understand actually why I can’t transfer it to the matches. That’s why I think that I am not the easiest one to coach or to say something that it works.
“The mental part is really big. I was able to see it. You must be relaxed and you must really believe in yourself. This is actually the biggest thing what I learn also in these two weeks, to go for it. Of course you will have some losses in your career, as well, and also tough moments still. But you must believe that you can do it. I learned that in these two weeks,” she says.
Torben Beltz, Angelique Kerber’s coach, said he had told his ward that this was a great chance for her to win her maiden Grand Slam title. “I really think she believed in herself, saying ‘I want to win this’,” he said. “She had to come out and try to win the match, try to be aggressive and try to go for the win. She did it. We’re happy for this.”
Her giant-killing act in her first Grand Slam final became stunning as she emerged the first German to win a Grand Slam event since her idol Steffi Graf in 1999. By being the first to hand Serena Williams her first-ever loss in a deciding set in a major, Angelique Kerber, her belief and confidence, walked into the collective consciousness of sports fans around the world.