Angelique Kerber is a Grand Slam champion. The 28-year-old stunned the tennis world beating big favorite Serena Williams 64, 36, 64 Saturday night at the Australian Open to capture her first career Grand Slam title.
The 28-year-old Kerber becomes the second German female behind Steffi Graf win a Slam, and the first to do it in Australia since Graf in 1994.
Kerber also if just the fifth player to ever beat Serena in a Grand Slam final and the first to do so in three sets. And until Saturday, she had never before beaten a World No. 1.
Kerber beat Victoria Azarenka and Johanna Konta en route to her first Grand Slam final. And in the first round she saved a match point against Masaki Doi.
Here’s what she said after the win:
Q. Did you surprise even yourself with the result tonight?
ANGELIQUE KERBER: You know, I mean, I had really crazy two weeks. I mean, with the first round where I was match point down, and then with the win over Azarenka in the quarters. I never beat her.
And now to play against Serena, what was a really honor to play against her in a Grand Slam final. It was my first final. You know, I was really looking forward. I was really excited.
I knew before that I beat her once in Cincinnati, that I really must go out there to try to beat her again because she will not give it to me. It was a really great match from both of us.
Yeah, really it’s a special moment for me.
Q. You mentioned the adversity throughout the tournament. How do you stay so composed when you were down in the match?
ANGELIQUE KERBER: I was trying to stay relaxed until the last point. The first set I played very well. The second set she was serving much better. The third set every game was really close.
I mean, the game to 3-2, it was like 10 minutes, I think. You know, I was trying really to focusing on myself because when I was up 5-2, I was sure the match is not over yet, you know.
Then like 5-3, 5-4, and she was serving, so I was just telling myself, Okay, you breaked her before few times, so you can do it again. Just play point by point.
When I hit the match point, I was just try to hoping to return the ball over the net. Just hoping, yeah, that I can make the ball and just going for it if I have the chance.
Yeah, when the ball was out from her, I was just, yeah, so happy. I mean, it’s amazing.
Q. It seems everything just clicked in your game. Do you think it’s like a second career that can start now?
ANGELIQUE KERBER: The second, yeah, maybe. Maybe it’s the second. I think someday here it click again like in New York few years ago where I reached the semis for my first time.
Here it was like that I was try to believe much more in myself. You know, when I won the first set, when I won against Azarenka, that shows me that I really am a good player and I can show it as well on the big courts.
You know, I was not playing very good last year on the big tournaments. This is the first big tournament of the year, and I won it, the first Grand Slam. It sounds crazy, but I can say I’m a Grand Slam champion now.
Q. You talked about the 10-minute game. What compelled you to hit a dropshot game point down?
ANGELIQUE KERBER: That’s how I am, a little bit crazy, you know. I really know and I have confidence when I play my dropshots. I was, okay, the game is so long. I must change something what she was not expecting.
I was really hoping the ball was coming over the net because they were like really good. When I hit the first one I said to myself, Okay, make another one. You can do it. It was just like more the feeling in this moment.
Q. You said yesterday that you felt like you had nothing to lose, less pressure. Do you think you had less pressure tonight?
ANGELIQUE KERBER: I think I had, of course, less pressure than her maybe. I had nothing to lose, but still I had to lose the match. I knew that I must play the best tennis against her tonight. I was going out there to try to show really that I can play, that I can beat her.
I was trying really to enjoy every second. I was enjoying when I stepped on court, the whole two hours. The crowd was so amazing. So really it was one of my biggest matches I played in my career.
Q. You mentioned before the US Open 2011 when you were No. 92 and you beat Pennetta to go in the semifinal.
ANGELIQUE KERBER: You’re always asking about Pennetta. Always (laughter). It’s okay.
Q. I’d like to know when you saw that Pennetta won the US Open, you thought, I could do that?
ANGELIQUE KERBER: I was doing this what you told, right. She won the US Open, I thought, Okay, she can do it. I beat her. I can do it (laughter).
Q. A big day for German tennis. You won your first Grand Slam and Steffi Graf’s record is still unmatched.
ANGELIQUE KERBER: Yeah, I think I helped Steffi right now.
I mean, yeah, Steffi is a champion. She won 22 Grand Slams. That’s my first one. I’m really happy about my game I played, about the two weeks. The hard work pays off.
You know, I really try to, yeah, improve my game, improve also my mentality, to stay more relaxed. Yeah, that it works everything here in these two weeks is just amazing.
Q. Serena is known to capitalize a lot on second serves. She didn’t capitalize a lot on your second serve. Did that give you extra confidence?
ANGELIQUE KERBER: Of course I was improving my serve, trying to improve my serve in the last few months. I was trying to hit it a little bit faster. But, of course, you never know when she’s hitting the ball so fast, you have no chance.
I was trying to hit more first serves in, not going to too many second serves. That was also my game plan, to serve more first serves.
Q. How much of an advantage was it being left-handed? Were you surprised she tried to push through your forehand?
ANGELIQUE KERBER: Actually, I was not surprising because I played a lot of matches against her and I know how she is playing. I saw the match against Radwanska.
I don’t know if it’s good or bad that you are lefty or no. I think she’s a champion and she won so many Grand Slams against so many great players. I don’t know if that was, you know, the key, that I’m lefty. I don’t know.
Q. Did you know that –
ANGELIQUE KERBER: Pennetta (laughter)?
Q. Did you know that when you went to the third set, Serena had won eight finals in slams every time she was in the third set? Did you know that?
ANGELIQUE KERBER: I didn’t know this, no. But when we went to the third set, I told myself actually, Okay, you can do it, as well. I played a lot of three-set matches in the last few years. I won a lot of these. I was actually more confident to go into the third set.
I was also happy that I won the first set, you know. I had a little bit, yeah, break. It was better to win against her the first set than the second set because, I don’t know, that was my feeling on court.
Q. You talked about being disappointed in your performance in the Grand Slams in the past. What are your ambitions for the rest of the year?
ANGELIQUE KERBER: To win some more, I think.
I mean, right now I’m not thinking about this. I try to really enjoy every moment, what’s happened right now, taking all the experience with me.
I mean, I think my phone is exploding right now. I don’t know how many messages I get. It’s like amazing.
I think it’s so good also for Germany, for the German tennis. After Steffi, now somebody won a Grand Slam. It’s like just amazing. Right now I’m not thinking about the next tournaments, the next challenges. I’m just trying to stay here and enjoy everything.
Q. Any of those messages from Steffi?
ANGELIQUE KERBER: Yes.
Q. You’ve had great success on the circuit, but now this incredible breakthrough two weeks. What emotion or feeling would capture it most?
ANGELIQUE KERBER: I think it’s more like proud, proud about my team, yeah, my family, my friends. They are always believing in me. I’m not the easiest person sometimes. I had also like a few downs where I was not so believing in myself.
All my families and friends, they believe always in me. They told me, Okay, let’s go to work and you will do it someday. Yeah, that’s true what they said actually at the end. I think it’s more like proud that the hard work pays off right now.
Yeah, I’m just happy. I mean, I have so many emotions it’s like crazy.
Q. Can you share a time when it was particularly tough for you.
ANGELIQUE KERBER: I think the toughest moment was like 2011 when I was like losing 11 times in the first round. Yeah, there I was thinking, Okay, if I’m doing the right thing.
Then I reached the semifinals in New York where I beat Pennetta (laughter). Yeah, then it starts.
Q. How many players in your careers, after the loss, have come to the other side on the court and congratulated you?
ANGELIQUE KERBER: Not many. I think Serena’s really a champion. She told me after that she’s really happy for me and that I really deserved it.
So, yeah, you saw that she is really, really a great person. She is, yeah, like I said, making history. She is inspiring a lot of people. So it’s like you said, yeah, what she did, it’s like just great from her.
Q. Given the fact that you were a point away from being eliminated from this tournament in the first round, after that did you feel like you got a second life? Does it give you less pressure and relaxed?
ANGELIQUE KERBER: Yeah, I think after the first round I was like, Okay, now I have nothing to lose anymore. I was playing actually from round to round better. For sure I get the second chance here I think in this tournament.
I was able to take it, you know. I was able to take my second chance and to go for it, to play good matches in these two weeks, yeah, and win at the end the Australian Open.
Yeah, the two weeks, it was a crazy two weeks.
Q. With so many Germans winning, do you think German tennis is on the rise, especially on the female side?
ANGELIQUE KERBER: Yeah, I think German tennis is growing right now. We have so many good players. They show here also that they can play and beat good players. Also Friedsam against Radwanska she had her chances. Beck against me it was a good match as well.
So also a lot of good, young players are coming in Germany. Yeah, it’s good for German tennis.
Q. You said you’re not the easiest person. What exactly do you mean by that?
ANGELIQUE KERBER: You know, sometimes I am like, you know, I was not believing too much in myself. Here it’s change 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. I think now I find my best team and they can handle me.
Q. Have you read the message or messages yet from Steffi?
ANGELIQUE KERBER: No. My phone, it’s charging there, so I don’t know. I was just able to call my mom, my parents, my grandparents, and that’s it. So I have no idea.
Q. Does your performance prove how big the mental game is in tennis?
ANGELIQUE KERBER: Yeah, for sure. The mental part, it’s really big. I was able to see it also. I mean, 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 loses in your career, as well, and also tough moments still.
But, you know, you must believe that you can do it. I learned that in these two weeks.
Q. Vinci beat Serena at the US Open; you beat Serena here. Do you think it’s a changing era, that more players can be encouraged more to go and take a match from her?
ANGELIQUE KERBER: I think against Serena it’s not so easy to win. I was feeling this, as well, tonight. You must play really your best tennis to beat her. I played tonight really good.
I knew that I must go for it. I think it’s still tough to beat Serena. But of course I think that a lot of new and good players are coming. They will challenge Serena. They will challenge me. They will challenge all the good players.
Yeah, let’s see what’s happen in the next few months or few years.
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