Angie Kerber put a stamp on her new reign at the No. 1 ranking on Saturday at the US Open, outlasting big-serving No. 10 seed and breakout player Karolina Pliskova 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 in the final.
Kerber had wrapped-up the No. 1 ranking when Serena Williams lost in the semifinals, and then went 2-0 as the yet-unofficial No. 1 by winning her semifinal match and the final. The new WTA rankings will be released on Monday with Kerber in the top spot.
“It’s just amazing,” Kerber said between tears on court after the final. “I won my second Grand Slam of the year and it’s the best year of my career. For me everything started here in 2011 [reaching semifinals as an unseeded player]. And now here, five years later I’m standing here with the trophy. All the dreams came true this year.”
Kerber’s run up the rankings began in January when she won her first Slam title at the Australian Open, shocking Serena Williams in the final. The US Open is the 10th career title for the 28 year old. She is the first German to win the US Open since Steffi Graf 20 years ago, and the second German to reach No. 1 behind Graf.
A Top 10 regular since 2012, before the beginning of this season she noticeably dropped some weight, and the titles started piling up.
“I’m feeling quicker and I’m feeling that I can run for longer because after a long point I feel can go again immediately,” Kerber told The Independent after winning her second title of the year in Stuttgart in April. “I’m feeling fitter than I did in previous years.”
Following her silver medal run at the Olympics, losing to Monica Puig in the gold medal match, she immediately played Cincinnati the following week, reaching the final before looking run down in falling to Pliskova 6-3, 6-1 in the final. A week’s rest was all she needed to run through the US Open field, gaining revenge on Pliskova in a tough three-set final in hot conditions in New York.
Pliskova was happy being in the second week of a Slam for the first time in 19 tries. She became one of the few player to beat both Venus and Serena Williams in the same Grand Slam tournament, running to the final after never before surpassing the third round at a Slam.
“It was a great match tonight,” Pliskova said. “I knew it was going to be difficult. I found some power in myself in the second set. Even though I couldn’t get the win, I’m proud of the way I’ve played the last few weeks. Hopefully, many more finals to come.”
It was the second time Kerber was faced with climbing to the No. 1 spot following the Cincinnati final where she was denied by Pliskova, who on Saturday saw her 11-match winning streak ended.
“It means a lot to me to be No. 1,” Kerber said. “When I was a kid, I wanted to be No. 1 in the world and win Grand Slams. All the dreams came true this year. I’m trying to enjoy all the moments, on court and off court.”
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