Kerber’s Dream Comes True

(Michael Dodge)

 

I’ve not been able to believe it since I saw Angie starting to fall to the ground as the ball was going long on match point. Going into the match I gave Angie virtually no chance of winning, as many others did. This was just Angie’s first major final and to play Serena going for her 22nd seemed like too daunting a challenge. Serena is just too good. She hadn’t dropped a set in the tournament and looked to be starting to play her best. She’d only lost four times in major finals out of 25 appearances and won her last eight major finals since Sam Stosur surprised her in the 2011 US Open final. On top of that it seemed like a good matchup for Serena. Angie’s game can’t threaten Serena much. That is if Serena is playing her best tennis, but then again really no one can threaten Serena when she’s playing her “A” game. For the most part though, Serena didn’t play her best and Angie did.

I think the difference in this match was Angie’s ability to make shots. You look at Wozniacki and Aga Radwanska, who have been in the top 10 for many years, but have never won a major, and they can’t make the shots Angie can and did make on this night. All three play defense well, but Angie is able to play aggressive from defensive positions. The way she was passing Serena at the net tonight, you’d have thought she was Novak Djokovic. I’d been saying it for years how I just didn’t get why Angie was slipping in the rankings and not contending for titles every week. She has tremendous defense and is willing to go for her shots. She displayed that dynamic in beating Serena Williams. Angie had the perfect balance of knowing when she needed to play defense and when she needed to take a chance and go for her shots more. That was what won Angelique Kerber her first major championship.

The story now is how Angie will deal with this new level of attention. It was easy to tell how introverted she is after she won. Many times you’d look at her standing next to Serena, who was smiling, and Angie was showing no reaction on her face. You’d never have been able to tell who won by looking at them at that moment. Then it was time for Angie to make her speech and she didn’t know what to say and she didn’t stop. But it was endearing. That’s why people like her. Who can blame her? She probably never imagined she’d be in this position and didn’t have anything prepared and was still trying to wrap her head around the fact that she was a major champion and world #2. After she finished her speech you could tell by the way she looked at Serena and said something that it must’ve been along the lines of “I just made such a fool of myself.” Serena though reassured her the speech was sweet, like the rest of us all thought. I’m glad Serena was there for Angie because it looked like she needed some help along the way. She allowed Angie to have her moment and that makes Serena a great champion. 

We’ve not witnessed Serena lose in many major finals, or finals really, so it’s like new territory because she’s so often not in this position. It was something I wanted to see since I’ve only seen her lose one major final and, at the time, I didn’t realize how unusual it was. It became something I tried to pay attention to after the match and during the ceremony.

I could tell that Serena was smiling a little too much. To try not to feel the heartbreaking disappointment of losing out on what seemed like another sure thing for #22. When Angie was rambling about how great Serena is I thought it looked as though Serena was fighting back her real feelings again. It almost looked like Serena was going to cry. Her speech was short too. Another sign of the pain. She didn’t stay long for pictures either. I just wanted to mention all this because everyone seems to be under the impression that everything Serena was doing after the match was 100% genuine, which it was not. Yes she let Angie have her moment, but underneath it was a lot of heartache. Serena hates losing more than anything. She wasn’t truly that happy she lost. Serena said after the match that she must be a good actor when the subject was brought up. She rebutted it afterwards, but there’s truth to it.

Serena also felt the pressure of going for #22 to tie Steffi. Early in the match she made a lot of errors and in the third set she did as well. These numbers to tie legends are tough for Serena. She had a hard time tying Evert and Navratilova’s 18. It seems like every time Serena loses in a major it’s because she folded under pressure. You can tell how bad she wants it and that has prohibited her when she thinks about it on the court. On the other hand, I thought for Angie playing Serena was kind of a blessing. When Sabine played Bartoli in the Wimbledon final in 2013, she was the favorite. It was winnable on the surface. When you play Serena, you’re never the favorite. I thought that allowed Angie to relax in regards to the match because she knew what was required to win. Her best tennis.

To get back to the point of Angie’s introvertedness though. Petra Kvitova is another introverted player. She won Wimbledon in 2011. She then proceeded to struggle at her next few tournaments. At the following major she lost in the opening round. Many other players struggle after their breakthrough too. That’s why I said we’ll have to watch to see how Angie handles all these new experiences over the following weeks and months, especially being an introvert.  In all likelihood she will have difficult times on and off the court following up this achievement. Obviously you’d rather be in this situation though. To win a major championship and have your dreams come true. But tough times will come along with it too. The one thing about it though is that Angie is an older player. She’s not young like Petra was when she won Wimbledon. Angie just turned 28. Petra, on the other hand, was 21 at the time of her Wimbledon win. Perhaps the fact that Angie is older may help her through this time to allow her to not experience any or much of a tough time afterwards. 

(Fiona Hamilton)

 

I just wanted to take you through what I was feeling during the match because it changed quite a bit. 

Like many others in the USA and in other parts of the world, I set my alarm this morning for the match. I never thought Angie was ever going to win this match, but I can’t pass up the biggest matches in our sport. No matter what I think the result will be. As I watched, rooting for Angie, I found out early that Serena was feeling her nerves and that Angie was playing well. Angie won the first set then didn’t play a bad second set really, but didn’t do anything spectacular either. After the second set Angie took a longer off court break than Serena did. I hope someone asks her if she said anything to herself or did anything to go out and play a great third set.

At 3-2, Angie got a lead in Serena’s service game and I felt like she was going to win the match. It just had that feel. Angie was playing well and Serena wasn’t. Angie got it to 5-2 and I was fist pumping like Nole did when he broke Federer in the fourth set of their semifinal. I cheered her on for every point. I was so excited Angie was about to win. I felt like I’d cry when Angie won. Then Serena came out and missed three straight serves and I really thought it was over. But like the champion she is, Serena got herself out of the game then broke and I started to retract all my happiness. I’d seen Serena come back many times before, but I really felt this time she wasn’t going to. I did keep up a sliver of hope at 5-4 for Angie to break. I just kept thinking about how Belinda Bencic lost her serve twice serving for the match, I believe, in Toronto last year, but then broke to win when Serena tried to even the score in the third set. Maybe Angie could too. It looked like it at 0-30, but Serena again fought to reach 40-30. Angie really didn’t do anything wrong either. She was making every ball and Serena was stringing together shots she hadn’t been able to the entire match. At that point all my excitement was gone. I still believed Angie had a chance, but I wasn’t going to get crushed if she lost.

Then Angie got it to deuce.

Then championship point.

Serena’s volley goes long. I just stood up and said “OMG” with my hands wrapped around my head. I could not believe it actually happened. I must be dreaming, right? RIGHT?!?! But it was crazy because had it happened ten minutes or so earlier I’d have been in tears, but my feelings about it all changed once Serena started her comeback. The actual moment was a lot more subdued than I imagined it’d be so that was disappointing. Ever since I’ve just been trying to comprehend that Angie actually beat Serena and is now a major champion and world #2. It’s all really confusing lol

(Michael Dodge)

 

Angie used to be one of my favorite players when I first started watching tennis. Then last year (2015) I started more tennis than ever before. I grew to like some other players more and Angie slipped a bit with me. I don’t really consider her a fave anymore. She’s in a tier with Azarenka and Sharapova I’d say. Where I like them, but they’re not my favorite. I’ll root for them on most occasions, but sometimes will root for someone against them randomly. Actually I don’t think I’ve ever rooted against Angie when she wasn’t playing Sabine or Elina (I wasn’t able to watch when she played Halep last year). Maybe Angie’s in her own category just above Vika and Maira. I mean I still root for Angie a lot due to her being on German Fed Cup with Sabine. She’s the German #1, so I want her to be playing well for the team. Maybe she’s more of a fave than I’ve thought over the past year. I just haven’t been able to appreciate it as much. Or maybe I’m just confused about it like I am about the match lol

But really I bring all this up because I’ve never had a WTA fave win a major and here’s a woman I considered a fave, a short time ago, who now has won a major. I did feel before the final like I couldn’t miss it because of that fact. I mean I even still kind of like to see my old favorite player, Caroline Wozniacki, do well. But I can’t count this as my first WTA fave winning a major no matter how happy I am about Angie winning. I’ve really only been apart of Sabine’s Wimbledon final, but not a win in a major final. I haven’t had that feeling  yet. And the thing is, I love women’s tennis much more than men’s. Sure Novak is my favorite tennis player and I’ve felt the happiness of him winning many majors, but it’s something I’ve already experienced. I’m still happy when he wins them, don’t get my wrong, and I often want him to win badly, but I’d like to see one of my woman players win one once. I seem to have only supported losers for the previous five years I’ve watched women’s tennis.

To be honest though I think the only way I’d truly ever be able to experience what it feels like for a WTA fave to win a major is if Sabine can ever win Wimbledon. She’s my favorite WTA player and there’s a gap between her and my second favorite, Halep, I’d say. I’m just so much more devoted to Sabine. I watch every match of hers I possibly can, write numerous articles about her, and have compiled so many spreadsheets of her stats you’d think I’m crazy. On the surface that probably sounds like Sabine is my favorite tennis player and maybe she is, but that’s only because I have to put in a lot effort for her. Each tournament I go into it knowing she may only play one match, so I have to be ready from round one if I want to see her. With Nole and even Simona, I feel like I can take a few of the early rounds off then just watch the end of the tournament. I don’t have that luxury with Sabine. It’d be amazing to experience Sabine actually win a major one day. Or really any significant tournament. I’ve only been with her for one 280. Hopefully seeing a fellow countrywoman win one will give Sabine belief that she can as well and my dream would come true of having my WTA fave win a major.

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