by Kevin Craig
Angelique Kerber continued her roll at the Australian Open as she breezed past Kristyna Pliskova in the third round on Friday, 6-0, 6-4.
“It’s great to have another good match under my belt and to be in the fourth round again here,” Kerber said. “I think that I’m finding my rhythm in the tournament now.”
The German made her breakthrough in Melbourne last year winning her first major title inside Rod Laver Arena, and will be looking to grab her third overall this year after she also claimed the US Open in 2016. Kerber is well on her way to the final in the weaker top half of the draw, and she could possibly meet up with Serena Williams for a rematch in the final.
Pliskova is the sister of Karolina Pliskova, who reached the US Open final last year, but is left-handed and has struggled to have the same level of success as her twin. Kristyna has been known more for her doubles results, but had made a good run in Melbourne this year.
Kerber easily dispatched the lower-ranked Pliskova, hitting just 14 unforced errors to her 34. After needed three sets to win both of her first two matches, the No. 1 player in the world gained some much needed confidence as she continues her Australian Open title defence.
In the first set, Kerber raced out to a 5-0 lead after just 17 minutes and finished off the bagel easily thanks to three unforced errors in the final game from Pliskova.
Kerber continued her great form into the second set, going up an early break. Pliskova, though, was able to get back into the set by winning three straight games midway through to take a lead. Kerber didn’t let that mini-slump in the second set stop her, though, as she broke at 4-4 to take a lead before serving out the match with ease.
“It was not so easy today, she is a tough opponent,” said Kerber. “I tried to stay focused until the last point.”
Next up for Kerber is American Coco Vandeweghe, who defeated Genie Bouchard in the third round in three tight sets.
“I think it will be a little bit similar to today. Coco is a tough opponent,” Kerber said. “I know that she’s serving good, as well. I have to move good, be ready, bring a lot of balls back, but also be aggressive.”
If Kerber can get past Vandeweghe, she could most likely take on Garbine Muguruza in the quarterfinals, with Venus Williams and Svetlana Kuznetsova potentially awaiting her in the semifinals.
Angelique Kerber won her second major title on Saturday at the US Open as she defeated Karolina Pliskova, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 to claim the trophy in New York.
After winning the Australian Open in the beginning of the year, and now the US Open, Kerber became the first player other than Serena Williams to win two majors in one year since Justine Henin did so in 2007. This title for the German proves that she deserves the No. 1 ranking that she will receive on Monday.
“It means a lot to me. When I was a kid I was always dreaming to one day be the No. 1 player in the world. To win Grand Slams. And today is the day. I won my second Grand Slam here…I’m the No. 1 player on Monday, so it’s just amazing,” said Kerber. “All the dreams came true this year.”
Both players came into the final with loads of confidence, which goes without saying as both had won six matches in New York to get to this point. Kerber, though, was playing with the comfort in her mind that, win or lose, she would be the new No. 1 player in the world when the rankings come out on Monday.
Pliskova, on the other hand, made it past the third round of a major for the first time and was on an 11-match win streak that included her title in Cincinnati that saw her defeat Kerber in the final.
Pliskova, who hit 40 winners and 47 unforced errors in the match, got off to a shaky start, as expected in her first major final, and Kerber took advantage. A break in the opening game by Kerber was followed up by an impressive serving performance in the first set in which she saved all three break points that she faced. Already up a break at 5-3, the German was able to break again to take the set and put herself just one set away from her second major title.
The tables turned in the second set, though, as Pliskova massively raised her level. The Czech didn’t face a single break point in the set and was able to continuously pressure the serve of the 2016 Australian Open champion. Three of Kerber’s five service games in the set went to deuce, and one of the games that didn’t was the game in which Pliskova was able to break. That one break was all the No. 10 seed needed to level the match and forced a deciding third set.
“I just found in myself some power in the second set,” said Pliskova, who won 89 percent of her first serve points in the second set.
Pliskova continued to play at her high level in the third set, breaking Kerber early to get a crucial lead. After going down 3-1, though, Kerber was able to fight back and get back on serve, winning three games in a row to make it 4-3.
From that point forward, both players were playing at peak levels. Kerber was playing her steady game and hit virtually no errors in the latter stages of the match, while Pliskova was blasting the ball from all over the court.
Serving at 4-5, though, Pliskova began to falter, as she had in the opening set. Kerber capitalized on this brief lapse from the Czech and broke at love to close out the match and win her second major title.
“I was really trying to stay in the moment, trying to play my game and being aggressive. I was just really trying to enjoy the final,” said Kerber of her comeback in the third set.
After a stellar 2016 season that saw her win two major titles and reach the No. 1 spot in the rankings, Kerber has little left to prove to the tennis world at the age of 28.
“Just amazing. I won my second Grand Slam in one year. That’s the best year in my career. It’s actually just incredible…it means so much to me,” said Kerber. “Congrats to Karolina…the last few months you have played incredible. You are a tough opponent and for sure you have a great future.”
“Congrats to Angie, she really proved she’s the world No. 1. It was a great match and I’m very honored to play with you,” said Pliskova, who is just 24-years old. “Even though I couldn’t get the win I’m really proud of myself. I’m really happy the way I was playing the last three weeks and hopefully many more titles to come.”
by Kevin Craig
Serena Williams lost her semifinal at the US Open on Thursday to Karolina Pliskova, 6-2 7-6(5), but that may not be the most important thing she lost on Thursday. The 22-time major champion also lost her world No. 1 ranking for the first time since February of 2013 to Angelique Kerber of Germany.
“I’m not talking about No. 1,” said Williams in her post-match press conference. “I think Karolina played great today…I wasn’t at 100 percent but I also think she played well and she deserved to win today.”
Williams discussed having a knee injury that occurred after her second round match that had been hampering her movement around the court, but was gracious in defeat as she was able to give Pliskova the credit she deserves for winning the match.
Pliskova, from the Czech Republic, has now won 11 matches in a row. After winning the premier-level event in Cincinnati, the No. 11 player in the world has come into New York and won six matches. Her goal coming into the event was to reach the fourth round of a major for the first time, and she has been able to go three rounds further, all the way into the final.
“I said I don’t believe it…actually I do believe it. I always knew I had a chance to beat anyone if I am playing my game,” said Pliskova.
The first set was dominated by the 10th-seeded Pliskova, as she went two-for-three on break points and didn’t have to face one herself. After Williams fought off a break point to hold for 2-3, she was able to take Pliskova to deuce and almost turned the tables on the first set.
Pliskova, though, withstood the effort from the American to hold before breaking her at love in the next game for a 5-2 lead, and that momentum carried over into the next game as the Czech easily held to close out the first set.
“The serve today was the key why I won,” said Pliskova.
Thanks to her dominance on serve that saw seven aces and 84-percent of first serve points won, Pliskova was able to continuously apply pressure on the Williams serve, earning a break point in the opening game of the second set. The Czech didn’t convert at that time, but would convert a few games later to break Williams for a 3-2 lead.
In the very next game, though, Pliskova faltered for the first and only time in the match, allowing Williams to have a look at a 0-40 opportunity. The American would not miss out on this chance, capitalizing on the first break point to even up the set.
Straightforward holds took the set into a tiebreak after the exchange of breaks early on. After dropping the first set on serve, Williams was able to bounce back and win both of Pliskova’s service points later in the set to grab a 4-3 lead.
The American was unable to take advantage of this lead, though, and lost her next service point before ultimately grabbing a 5-4 lead and putting herself within two matches of forcing a deciding third set. From that point on, though, Pliskova was able to win the next three points, including a double fault on match point from Williams, giving the Czech the win and putting her in the final.
“This is something amazing and I’m really excited to be in the final, and especially to beat a player like this. Serena is a champion so it’s never easy to play her…it was very hard,” said Pliskova. “I had a goal today to beat Serena and that’s what I did…I don’t care who is there in the final.”
Two Wimbledon titles. Two Olympic Gold Medals. How about two U.S. Opens for Andy Murray?
The Scotsman won his second Olympic Gold Medal in Rio de Janiero, Brazil beating Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina in the gold medal match to become the first singles player in Olympic history to win two gold medals – and repeat as champion. The Olympic gold medal for Murray comes on the heels of him winning his second Wimbledon singles title in July.
He now heads to New York as a betting favorite for the U.S. Open, the site of his first major singles title in 2012.
Murray has won his last 18 singles matches – not losing since the French Open final to Novak Djokovic and since he rehired former coach Ivan Lendl, himself a three-time U.S. Open champion. It is his longest winning streak of his professional career.
After being the dominant force in men’s tennis for much of the last three years, Djokovic has shown chinks in his game after a surprising third-round loss to Sam Querrey at Wimbledon and an opening-round loss to del Potro at the Olympics. However, redemption is a motivator for the Serbian as he looks to win in New York for a third time.
The U.S. Open women’s singles event may also be a battle for the No. 1 ranking with Serena Williams seeking to hold off the challenge of world No. 2 Angelique Kerber of Germany. Williams had trouble with her health and her shoulder in her upset loss to Elina Svitolina in the third round at the Olympics that could hamper her in New York. Despite her upset loss to upstart Monica Puig of Puerto Rico in the gold medal match in Rio, Kerber could counter-punch her win to a second major singles title of the year after her win over Williams in the Australian Open final in January. Garbine Muguruza of Spain, the French Open champion, may also contend in New York, but has struggled since achieving her new status in the tennis world order in Paris.
With the Olympics proving to be a physical and emotional drain for many athletes who competed, a dark horse could also emerge in either the men’s or women’s field and win a first major singles title. New top 10 stars Dominic Thiem of Austria and Milos Raonic of Canada, the Wimbledon finalist, may be fresh enough to make a mark at Flushing Meadows. Romania’s Simona Halep, who also skipped Rio, and Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, a first-round loser at the Olympics, may also be ready to break through in New York. Madison Keys of the United States, who finished a painful fourth in Rio, is moving fast up the rankings and may be fueled by her disappointment in not winning a medal in Rio into Grand Slam success in New York.
by Kevin Craig
Serena Williams captured her 22nd major championship on Saturday as she was able to defend her Wimbledon title, beating Angelique Kerber in straight sets, 7-5, 6-3.
Williams, who has been the No. 1 player in the world for well over the past three years, had been attempting to tie Steffi Graf’s mark of 22 major titles since she won the Wimbledon title in 2015, but a semifinal appearance at the US Open followed by two runner-up performances delayed her efforts. Now that the American has grabbed No. 22, though, she currently sits just two major titles behind the record holder Margaret Court, who won 24 in her career.
“It’s been incredibly difficult not to think about it. I had a couple of tries this year…but it makes the victory even sweeter to know how hard I worked for it,” said Williams of her 22nd major title.
In a rematch of the 2016 Australian Open final in which Kerber won in three sets, the 34-year old Williams looked to be the one to get off to a fast start as she had three break chances in the second game of the match. The German, though, was able to fight each of those off, and actually looked like the more comfortable player on serve from that point on.
That quickly changed in the 12th game, though, as Kerber, the 28-year old who was playing in just her second major final, served to take the set into a tiebreak. Williams was able to crush a few returns when it mattered most, opening up a 15-40 lead which gave her a look at two set points. After missing out on the first, Williams, who hit 39 winners compared to Kerber’s 12, capitalized on the second with an un-returnable backhand to take the set.
The second set was completely dominated by the servers as there was only one break point in the first seven games. Williams, though, has always been able to turn her level of play up a notch or two when she needs to the most, and, just like in the first set, that is what she did in the second.
With Kerber serving at 3-4, Williams fought back from a 40-15 deficit and won four points in a row to break and set up an opportunity to serve for the title. Three unreturned serves later, Williams, who hit 13 aces, found herself at championship point.
A brief rally ensued before Williams was able to come to the net and put away an easy forehand volley for the win. Falling to the court in joy, the American had just placed herself in the record books again as she earned her seventh Wimbledon title.
“It’s an honor to play on Centre Court and a great feeling,” said Williams, who faced just one break point in the match. “This court definitely feels like home.”
by Kevin Craig
Angelique Kerber of Germany was able to prevent an all-Williams sister final from happening at Wimbledon as she defeated Venus Williams on Thursday, 6-4, 6-4, to reach the final.
“It’s just amazing…to beat Venus in the semis. It’s always tough. I’m so excited to be in the final here,” said Kerber. “I’m just happy to be playing my best and to be in my second grand slam final.”
The match got off to a very unexpected and topsy-turvy start as each of the first five games were breaks, as well as seven of the first eight. It was Kerber, though, who was able to get that crucial extra break and first hold of the match for 4-2, before eventually snatching the first set.
“I don’t know what was the problem. I think we both were returning very well at the beginning of the first set. I mean I was a little bit nervous when I go out there because I was trying to play my best tennis,” said Kerber.
The second set looked like it could be similar to the first as the German was able to break in the opening game, but that was that. The No. 4 seed felt little pressure from that point as she lost just five points in her five service games of the set, setting up a rematch of the 2016 Australian Open final in which she was able to defeat the 21-time major champion Serena Williams, who needed just 48 minutes to win her semifinal against Elena Vesnina, 6-2, 6-0.
“I know that she played long matches, in the first week especially. I was trying to move her. That was the plan,” said Kerber of her strategy against the 36-year old Venus, who made 10 more unforced errors than her opponent.
“I played against a lot of great opponents. I had a lot of tough matches. It’s not easy out there,” said Venus. “There is no such thing as impossible. It’s always possible. That’s what you feel as an athlete.”
Venus did manage to show signs of life halfway through the second set as she was able to fend off three break points while down 1-3 to hold before earning a 0-30 lead on Kerber’s serve in the next game. The German was too good though and managed to hold on, making her eager for another shot at arguably the greatest female tennis player of all time.
“I know she will go out and try everything to beat me right now,” said Kerber of her matchup with Serena which will take place on Saturday at Wimbledon.
by Kevin Craig
Sisters Serena and Venus Williams both won quarterfinal matches Tuesday at Wimbledon, meaning they are both just one win away from setting up an all-Williams Wimbledon final, the first since 2009.
“I’m so happy we’re both in the semifinals…Obviously, she’s such a tough opponent. I want her to win. But not the final, if I’m there,” said Serena.
Serena, who has won six Wimbledon titles, defeated Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4, 6-4, while Venus, who has won five Wimbledon titles, defeated Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan, 7-6(5), 6-4.
Serena, who is defending the Wimbledon title she won in 2015, got off to a slower start than she would’ve liked on Tuesday as she was unable to work her way into any of Pavlyuchenkova’s service games. The 21-time major champion persisted, though, and stood strong on her serve, allowing her to capitalize on the one weak service game of the set from the Russian. It came at a costly time too, as Serena, who won 90 percent of her first serve points in the match, earned a 0-40 lead at 4-4, converting on the first break chance before holding at love to close out the first set.
The second set was not any easier for the American, though, as Pavlyuchenkova refused to go away. After fighting through a long game on serve to open up the second set, the Russian appeared to have the momentum on her side. Pavlyuchenkova became the aggressor, forcing Serena to work for her service games.
That time of the match was short lived, though, as once again at 4-4, the Russian played a poor service game and Serena capitalized on her first break chance. The break earned the No. 1 player in the world a 5-4 lead, a carbon copy of the first set, before holding comfortably to close out the match and reach her 10th semifinal at Wimbledon.
“I am excited to be able to win and get through, it felt really good,” said Serena. “I am just trying to win my match…one thing I have learned this year is just to focus on the match.”
Venus, who is the oldest player in the Top 200, looked like she would have a tough day at the office from the get go. The American found herself down break point four times total in her first two service games of the match before being broken in her third game, giving Shvedova a 3-2 lead. The seven-time major champion was able to break right back, though, settling things down in the set.
Venus earned a set point on Shvedova’s serve at 5-4, but the Kazakh was able to fight it off and eventually force a tiebreak. Shvedova, the No. 96 player in the world who was playing in her third major quarterfinal, raced out to a 5-2 lead and looked to be in charge. No pressure was felt by Venus, though, as she was able rattle off five points in a row to steal the set.
“She was on fire…somehow I walked out with the set,” said Venus.
Shvedova wasn’t able to bounce back from the disappointment of dropping the first set in a tiebreak, as Venus broke in each of her first three service games, grabbing a 4-1 lead. It was straightforward from there for the American as she closed out the match to reach the semifinals at Wimbledon for the first time since 2009.
“What a tough day on court…I love playing the game, I always have. The wins and losses all lead to this big moment,” said Venus. “This is an awesome day. I would love to be walking towards the final.”
Serena will take on Elena Vesnina in the semifinals, while Venus have the more difficult task of battling the 2016 Australian Open champ Angelique Kerber on Thursday.
Not only is a potential matchup in the final on their minds. The sisters are playing doubles together at Wimbledon for the first time since 2014 and have reached the quarterfinals as they look to snag their sixth Wimbledon doubles title and 14th major title overall.
Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber was upset on Tuesday at the French Open by Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, highlighting the biggest upset so far this year in Paris.
Kerber, the No. 3 seed in the event, had the unfortunate luck of drawing Bertens who was on a seven match win streak and had won 18 of her last 21 matches, dating back to March.
The Dutchwoman was able to continue her good run of form into Paris, as she got off to a hot start, breaking Kerber in just her second service game of the match. From there, Bertens, the No. 58 player in the world, only lost four points on her serve to close out the set, and broke the German again for a comfortable first set win.
Kerber looked to bounce back in the second set, as she fought through getting taken to deuce in her first two service games while Bertens cruised through hers. In the sixth game of the set, though, the tides appeared to turn as Bertens played one poor service game and Kerber jumped all over it, breaking at love for her first lead of the match. Bertens was able to break back in the next game, but Kerber kept her composure and broke once more before closing out the set comfortably, taking the match to a decider.
Bertens didn’t let the disappointment of dropping the second set get to her and, unlike most upset bids, was able to stave off the late fight of the more experienced player. Bertens broke in Kerber’s first service game of the third set, but Kerber certainly did not allow her to cruise to the win. While serving at 3-1, Bertens fought off two break points to hold before saving one more at 5-3, as she was able to close out the match and book her spot in the second round.
Berten’s opponent in the next round will be Camila Giorgi of Italy, who defeated Frenchwoman Alize Lim, 6-3, 6-2.
Another notable player to exit the French Open was No. 5 seed Victoria Azarenka, as she was forced to retire while losing in the third set against Karin Knapp with a knee injury.
On the men’s side, Andy Murray was able to fight back from two sets to love down in his match that was suspended from Monday against Radek Stepanek, 3-6, 3-6, 6-0, 6-3, 7-5. After dropping the first two sets to the experienced Czech, Murray fought back to win the third set and was up 4-2 when play had to be stopped for the night.
When play resumed on Tuesday, Murray was able to close out the fourth set, saving two break points along the way, and force a deciding fifth set that was much tougher than he would have hoped.
Murray had very few problems on his serve throughout the set, but Stepanek fought hard on his service games and gave the Brit very little to work with. That was the case until he served at 5-5 and Murray was finally able to break through, breaking at 30-40 for the chance to close out the match.
Murray, the No. 2 seed, was taken to deuce by Stepanek, but was able to close out the win in the end and force a matchup with French wild card Mathias Bourgue in the second round.
Novak Djokovic Holds Huge ATP Ranking Points Lead Over No. 2 Andy Murray – Passing Shots with Kevin Craig
by Kevin Craig
- Novak Djokovic’s Australian Open title is his 11th major title overall and puts him on even terms with Rod Laver’s and Bjorn Borg’s 11 major titles. Djokovic now also has six Australian Open titles, matching Roy Emerson’s record.
- The current points gap in the ATP rankings between No. 1 Djokovic and No. 2 Andy Murray is equal to the points gap between No. 2 Murray and No. 36 Pablo Cuevas. With his win at the Australian Open, Djokovic is now guaranteed to hold the No. 1 ranking for at least 100 consecutive weeks.
- After hitting 100 unforced errors in his fourth round win over Gilles Simon, Djokovic hit only 88 unforced errors combined in his last three matches.
- Angelique Kerber was a combined 1-11 against Victoria Azarenka and Serena Williams heading into the 2016 Australian Open before beating Azarenka in the semifinals and Williams in the final.
- The loss in the 2016 Australian Open final was just the fifth loss in a major final for Williams, and her first in three sets.
- For the first time in Australian Open history, eight different countries were represented in both the men’s and women’s singles draws. Serbia, Japan, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, France, Canada, Spain, and Great Britain were represented on the men’s side while the United States, Russia, Poland, Spain, Germany, Belarus, Great Britain, and China were represented on the women’s side.
- Jamie Murray became the first person not named Bob or Mike Bryan to make three straight major doubles finals since Mark Knowles and Daniel Nestor did it in 2002. Jamie and his brother Andy Murray will now both be ranked No. 2 in the doubles and singles rankings, respectively, the first time two brothers have done so.
- Bruno Soares became the first player to win two titles at the Australian Open by virtue of winning the men’s and mixed doubles since Rennae Stubbs won the women’s and mixed doubles titles in 2000.
- Di Wu became the first player from China to win a challenger title as he took home the title in Maui. Wu beat the No. 1 seed Kyle Edmund in the final, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
by Kevin Craig
Angelique Kerber stunned the tennis world on Saturday in Melbourne as she defeated Serena Williams to win the Australian Open title, 6-4 3-6 6-4. The win gives Kerber her first major title in her first attempt as she became the first German woman to win a major title since Steffi Graf won the French Open in 1999.
The match started off as many would have expected, Williams held at love in the first game and got up 15-30 in Kerber’s first service game. The German quickly calmed down, though, as she won three points in a row to get the hold and then applied her own pressure on return, getting two break chances at 1-1. Kerber only needed the first chance as she broke to go up 2-1, then held for a 3-1 lead. Williams, who is used to being forced to fight from behind, had no issue getting the break back and levelling things at 3-3. Kerber, though, was up to the task again and broke right back to regain her lead, and would hold on to it this time as she closed out the set only losing one point in her last two service games.
The second set was much more straightforward as only one of the nine games played saw the returner get past 30. That one game was the difference though, as Williams had two break chances at 2-1 and took advantage of the second one to go up 3-1. That was all she wrote in the set as Williams would go on to force a decider. Williams’ ability to calm her nerves and focus better after going down a set saw her unforced errors tally drop from 23 in the first to just five in the second, allowing her to get back into the match.
Kerber and Williams exchanged breaks early in the third as both attempted to get out to a lead in the deciding set. Kerber was the one who was able to break and then consolidate later in the set, as she broke to go up 4-2 and held at love for a 5-2 lead, looking as if she was well on her way to the title. The game in which she broke was a 16-point game that lasted more than 11 minutes, and was further proof that Kerber belonged on this stage. It was not to be for Kerber on the first attempt though, as Williams broke the German as she served for the match. With the 21-time grand slam champion getting back on serve in the final set, all the momentum felt as if it was on her side of the net. Despite the momentum shift, Kerber was able to relax on the changeover and regroup, as she would go on to have a championship point as Williams served at 4-5. At advantage-Kerber, Williams sent a volley long, crowing Kerber the 2016 Australian Open champion.
The German was just too good for Williams as she hit only 13 unforced errors in the match, seven of which came in the second set, which she lost. Kerber winning the title in Melbourne this year looked unlikely in the first round as she was down a match point to Misaki Doi in her opening match. If she had lost in the first round, it would have matched her 2015 result at the Australian Open in which she lost her opening round match to Irina-Camelia Begu. That was not the case though, as Kerber fought back from the edge in the first round and would go on to only lose one more set en route to her maiden grand slam title. The win will see her move up to No. 2 in the world rankings, behind only the woman she beat in the final on Saturday.