“The best year of my career”
Stuttgart. As the world number one, Angelique Kerber will also go into the WTA Finals in Singapore as the favourite. “I want to win as many matches as possible and finish off the best year of my career with a success,” said the Porsche Brand Ambassador who will play her opening match at the tournament involving the eight most successful against the Slovakian Dominika Cibulkova on Sunday. “And then I’m going to treat myself to a nice holiday with sun and time on the beach.”
The days before the first serve in the Singapore Sport Hub were once again very busy for Angelique Kerber. In addition to practising, there were also press and public relations activities on the schedule. The 28-year old German, who loves fast cars and who, as the two-time winner of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, already has two sports cars from Zuffenhausen in her garage, presented the new Porsche 718 Cayman in the Singapore Porsche Center. And, together with other players, she led the workout class to which young women from Singapore were invited at the city’s hippest gym. Despite her various duties, she found time to take a look around the fascinating city and appeared to be very relaxed – no sign of tension. In Singapore too, she was enjoying her dream year to the full.
“I’m always highly motivated”
“Being able to compete against the world’s top players at the Finals is a big honour for me. I’ve worked very hard for it,” she said. She does not have motivate herself extra for the season-ending tournament: “I’m always fully motivated no matter when and where I’m on court. It was a very long and, somehow, also crazy year for me and I’m looking forward to taking a little break from tennis. But I’ll be summoning up all the energy I still have at the end of such a strength-sapping season. Last year I missed out on reaching the semi-finals by just a single set. It’s not something I want to happen again.”
Angelique Kerber has long been one of the world’s top women players. However, it took until 2016 for her to fulfil her dream of becoming the world No. 1 and winning a Grand Slam. After her success at the Australian Open in January, she knew she really had made it to the top and she no longer had anything to prove. “Becoming number one and winning Grand Slams was always my goal,” she said when looking back at her career of ups and downs. Though I also suffered many setbacks in the last years, I never doubted I was on the right track. To achieve the biggest wins, it’s not enough to just play well. Many things have to come together. And that was the case with me this year.”
“An unbelievably happy feeling”
It has been the best year of her career. After Australia she went on to claim her second Grand Slam at the US Open and reached the final at both Wimbledon and the Olympic Games in Rio. In between, she won the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix for the second time. What was her happiest moment? “It’s difficult to say, there were so many such moments this year,” she said. “Each and every success is something special. The most emotional moment was certainly the win at the Australian Open. My first Grand Slam success took away a lot of the pressure on me. It was pure relief, an unbelievably happy feeling.”
By climbing to No.1 in the world rankings after the US Open, she is no longer the hunter but the hunted. “My opponents have nothing to lose and are, as a result, even more motivated,” she said. “You’re the number one and everybody wants to beat you. You have to work even harder for every point.” What has her success changed? “First off, it’s outward things. People recognise me more often on the streets, I’ve got far more appointments with the media and sponsors. I myself haven’t changed. I’m still the same person.” And as a player? “I’ve definitely become even fitter this year. I know I can run around the court for three or four hours on end without it hurting. It gives me a lot of self-confidence. And I’m stronger mentally. I think more positively and can deal with defeats much better.”
A point to prove in Singapore
The WTA Finals has not been a success story for Angelique Kerber in the past. However, she is convinced things will change this time around. “When in 2015 I missed out on reaching the semi-final by a single set in the final group match, it was a big disappointment,” she said. “But with the experience and the wins from this year, I’m sure I can deal with such extreme situations far better now. Nevertheless, I’ll be trying to concentrate on every single match so that I don’t find myself in such a situation again.”
The WTA Finals – an overview
The WTA Finals were first played in 1972. Qualified are the year’s eight most successful players. They are split up into two round robin groups. The top two will contest the semi-finals. The final will take place on 30 October. Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska is the title-holder. Total prize money amounts to seven million dollars. The singles draw served up the following groups: Red Group: Angelique Kerber (Germany), Simona Halep (Romania), Madison Keys (USA), Dominika Cibulkova (Slovakia). White Group: Agnieszka Radwanska (Poland), Karolina Pliskova (Czech Republic), Garbine Muguruza (Spain). The fourth player in the group will be decided between Johanna Konta (Great Britain) and Svetlana Kuznetsova (Russia). Julia Görges, the Porsche Team Germany member, will be competing in the doubles alongside the Czech Karolina Pliskova.