Ahead of schedule in what might turn into a tight test of a U.S. Open final, Angelique Kerber sprinted forward somehow to achieve a drop shot and scoop a down-the-line winner that arrived in a side of the court.
The Arthur Ashe Stadium swarm thundered, and Angelique Kerber celebrated by raising her right hand and swaying her forefinger noticeable all around, as though to remind adversary Karolina Pliskova and other people “I’m No. 1!”
“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,” said the 28-year-old Kerber, who will move up one spot from No. 2 and replace Serena Williams atop the WTA rankings on Monday. “I mean, all the dreams came true this year.”
Never a Grand Slam finalist before 2016, Kerber beat Williams for the Australian Open title in January, then was the runner-up to her at Wimbledon in July. Including the title at Flushing Meadows was additional proof that the greater part of the progressions Kerber has made are paying off.
The better fitness, by means of additional time in the gym and more, more exceptional practice sessions; an enhanced serve and another ability to assault amid focuses, as opposed to predominantly counter-punching, by means of guideline from mentor Torben Beltz; a more positive attitude on court, via help from a mental coach.
“Of course, now everybody will try to beat me and have nothing to lose,” Kerber said. “I will try to take this challenge.”
On Saturday, the No. 2-seeded Kerber trailed by a break at 3-1 in the third set before coming back against the 10th-seeded Pliskova, who hadn’t been past the third round at a major until this tournament.
“It didn’t look good,” Beltz said about the deficit. “But I think that’s also her strength. Because … if she sees she still has a chance, she’s grabbing it and she goes for it.”