Entries in Angelique Kerber (5)


Serena: ‘Two weeks of Wimbledon showed me the end of the road'

By Art Spander

WIMBLEDON, England — No, that wasn’t the Serena we knew. That was the Serena who had given birth via Caesarian section only 10 months ago, the Serena who, because of her skill and intensity, made such great progress in a comeback in so short a time that we were fooled into thinking she was as good as ever.

Which, as we learned, she isn’t. But then isn’t that what she kept telling us?

She was in her element Saturday, on the grass courts where she had won seven championships. And yet she was a new mother, a working mother, working to regain the power and touch that made her a champion.

Everything had gone so perfectly this Wimbledon, the top seeds, the big guns, the upsets of defending champ Garbiñe Muguruza and No. 1-ranked Simona Halep. And suddenly there was Williams, two months before her 37th birthday, in the final.

But Kerber had won the Australian and French Opens, and two years ago she lost to Serena in the Wimbledon final. After that she stumbled, lost early in the Slams, fell in the rankings. Tennis people wondered what was wrong.

Whatever was wrong isn’t wrong any more.

Kerber, lashing shots, keeping Williams on the move, breaking serve the very first game of the match, making only five unforced errors compared to 24 for Serena, needed only 1 hour, 5 minutes to score a decisive 6-3, 6-3 victory.

That wasn’t expected. Maybe it should have been.

“It was a great opportunity for me to find out what I didn’t know a couple of months ago,” said Williams. “Where I was, and what I need to do, how I would be able to come back. I had such a long way to go to see the light at the end of the road. The two weeks of Wimbledon showed me the end of the road.”

As opposed to the end of a career.

“She played from the first point to the last point pretty good,” said Serena of the 30-year-old Kerber. “She played unbelievably.”

As the match progressed, or regressed, if you choose, John McEnroe said on BBC TV, “Normally Serena doesn’t beat herself.” But she wasn’t. Kerber was beating Serena.

Now and then there would be a cry of desperation from the stands, “Come on, Serena.” That wasn’t any more helpful than Williams’ relatively ineffective serve.   

The issue here may be our disbelief. Even at the top of their game, great athletes and sportsman have their failings. Tom Brady throws interceptions. Klay Thompson can’t throw a ball into the ocean, much less a rim.

And right now Serena, who embraced Kerber at the net after the final point, is not at the top of her game. She’ll attempt to get there once more, but as was apparent against Kerber it will take time and great effort.

“I knew I had to play my best against a champion like Serena,” said Kerber. Which she did, and then fell flat on the lawn in exultation. Moments later she was handed the trophy, the Venus Rosewater Plate, while Williams stood on the edge of the court in a scene so rare, a spectator rather than a participant.

“It was such an amazing tournament for me,” Williams would say in reflection. ”Obviously I’m disappointed. But I can’t be disappointed because I’m just getting started. To all the working moms out there, I tried. Angelique just played out of her mind.”

Analyzing on BBC-TV, nine-time Wimbledon champion Martina Navratilova said, ”Serena played the best player in the tournament, by far.”

And Billie Jean King, a multiple Wimbledon winner, pointed out, “Kerber always got one more ball back.”

In the royal box were actual royalty, the Duchess of Cambridge and the new Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, as well as long-time Serena pal Jelena Djokovic, whose husband, Novak, beat Rafael Nadal to reach Sunday’s men’s final.

“These two weeks,” said Serena of the Wimbledon fortnight, “really showed me, OK, I can compete. I can come out and be a contender and win Grand Slams.”

As she used to do, and as Angelique Kerber just did.


A question for Serena, but no questions for Kerber

By Art Spander

NEW YORK — It seemed wrong, a final in women’s tennis without Serena Williams, but at the same time it seemed right. Sport is nothing but change, heroes and heroines raising a trophy or a hand in triumph and then being pushed aside, maybe in a matter of weeks or months — the Warriors' reign was halted all too quickly — or, in Serena’s case, a matter of years.

Now there is a new women’s tennis champion, someone who not that long ago the critics said didn’t have the game or the nerve to get to the top. Angelique Kerber is not only the U.S. Open winner but No. 1 in the rankings.

Kerber left no questions Saturday in the Open final, beating Karolina Pliskova, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, someone who like Kerber few outside the little, provincial world of tennis knew well, if at all, until recently.

Yet their questions of another, Serena, whose defeat in the semifinals by Pliskova on Thursday, and tumble from the top of the rankings on Saturday morning, became front-page news in the New York Times, 24 hours later.

The day the women’s final, for a second straight year, would played without her.

“Serena Williams Will Be 35.” said the headline over a story by tennis correspondent Chris Clarey. “But Will She Be No. 1 Again?”

Yes, Williams is American and held her position for 186 consecutive weeks, and we tend to dwell on what was as much as what is. Still, women’s tennis is in flux, although Kerber suddenly appears to be the top-of-the-heap player who may hold her ranking for a while.

Kerber has done what Serena used to do, what Venus Williams used to do, what Steffi Graf and Chris Evert used to do: she stepped up and dominated. She beat Serena in the Australian Open final, lost to Serena in the Wimbledon final and now beats Pliskova in the U.S. Open final. Three finals and two titles in a calendar year. That’s something we would have expected from Serena, or from Kerber’s mentor and fellow German, Steffi Graf, who persuaded Kerber to be more aggressive.

As perhaps too many women on tour, Kerber played too carefully, keeping the ball in play but rarely forcing the issue. But after she lost to Victoria Azarenka in the third round of last year’s Open, she visited Graf — the last player, male or female, to take the Grand Slam, all four majors in a year, 1988 — in Las Vegas, where Graf lives with her husband, Andre Agassi, and family.

“Kerber used to play too defensively,” Evert told the ESPN television audience, “and she had that pitty-pat serve.”

At age 28, Kerber conquered her faults and her demons. And with experience she then conquered the hard-serving Pliskova, who at 24 finally had her breakthrough.

Pliskova, who never had been beyond the third round of any major, first won the Cincinnati tournament a month ago, beating Kerber in the final, 6-3, 6-1, and then going all the way to this final — if not to the championship.

Kerber said she had dreamed of being No. 1 since she was a child in Bremen. Sometimes even in a sport where the young come up so quickly, and the veterans slip away no less quickly, success is a process that takes a long while.

"It means a lot to me,” said Kerber, still on the Arthur Ashe Stadium court as tears trickled down her face immediately after the match. “I mean, all the dreams came true this year, and I'm just trying to enjoy every moment on court and also off court."

She’ll enjoy it. Serena Williams may enjoy it less so. Will she be No. 1 again? It will be fascinating to find out.


Newsday (N.Y.): Serena Williams puts pressure behind her, finally collects her 22nd Grand Slam championship

By Art Spander
Special to Newsday

WIMBLEDON, England — The opponent had been herself as much as the women on the other side of the net. Serena Williams finally confessed that she had been vexed as much by expectations, by pressure, by the attempt to win that magical 22nd Grand Slam title, as by anyone else’s serve or forehand.

Her actions said as much. When Williams beat stubborn Angelique Kerber, 7-5, 6-3, on Saturday — to catch 22 and Steffi Graf for her seventh Wimbledon title, ending a streak of three consecutive Slams without a championship — she flopped unhesitatingly on her back atop the grass of Centre Court.

Read the full story here.

Copyright © 2016 Newsday. All rights reserved.


Newsday (N.Y.): Wimbledon is Serena Williams’ fourth chance at Grand Slam No. 22

By Art Spander
Special to Newsday

WIMBLEDON, England — Serena Williams said she feels different at this Wimbledon, “more relaxed, more at peace than I have been in the past.”

Is she trying to make believers out of us, or out of herself?

Copyright © 2016 Newsday. All rights reserved.


Newsday (N.Y.): Rafael Nadal, Maria Sharapova upset at Wimbledon

By Art Spander
Special to Newsday

WIMBLEDON, England — A teenager nicknamed "The Wild Thing" stunned Rafael Nadal and in the process all Wimbledon, recording one of the biggest upsets of the last 25 years.

Nick Kyrgios, 19, a 6-4 Australian with a vicious serve and a positive approach, took apart the top-ranked Nadal, 7-6 (5), 5-7, 7-6 (5), 6-3, on a Tuesday of surprises.

Read the full story here.

Copyright © 2014 Newsday. All rights reserved.