By Jane Voigt
Angelique Kerber will be crowned number one in the world on Monday, yet she didn’t wait to show off her top-ranked tennis today on Arthur Ashe Stadium during the women’s singles final.
“When I was a kid I have always dreamed to be the number one of the world,” Kerber told fans on their feet inside the stadium that seats over 23,000 spectators.
In a completely entertaining match against first-time major finalist, Karolina Pliskova, Kerber demonstrated precise, quick footwork; tough defense, and keen ability to re-direct balls in her 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 victory.
“It’s amazing,” Kerber said, smiling up to the fans. She had not dropped a set the entire tournament before today.
The win punctuates her dominance for the year. She has reached the final in three of the four majors, winning The Australian Open and being runner-up at Wimbledon. She also becomes the first woman other than Serena Williams to win multiple Grand Slams in a year since Justine Henin in 2007.
“I won my second Grand Slam this year. It’s incredible,” she said, her eyes swollen from tears of joy and relief. “Everything starts here. You guys are just incredible.”
Kerber was referring to her run at the Open in 2011, when she entered ranked No. 92. She went all the way to the semifinals that year and lost to eventual champion, Samantha Stosur. The Aussie standout defeated Serena Williams.
The last German woman to win the U.S. Open was Steffi Graf in 1996, 20 years ago. It was the last time she played in New York and her fifth title.
Karolina Pliskova performed like a veteran, remaining poised and spirited. She lead 3-1 in the third set and could have defeated Kerber had she not changed her attitude at a critical moment, refusing to lose.
“Great honor to play with you [Kerber]. I knew it’s going to be difficult,” Pliskova told fans, after receiving her trophy and check for $1.75 million.
Pliskova’s clean, reliable and powerful serve plus penetrating ground strokes were key to keeping Kerber at bay and extending the match to three sets. She broke Kerber early in the third, having won six of eight games.
“I found out I can play my biggest tennis on this grand stage,” Pliskova said. “I’m proud I took it to [a] third set. Hopefully [there will be] many more finals to come.”
Pliskova was more nervous, during the first few games. However as the match marched on the occasion fell into the background. With temperatures high and humidity oppressive, Pliskova won shortened points when she came to the net. Her success rate was 74%, which far exceeded that from Kerber — 50% — who approached only six times to her opponent’s 38 times.
Both women ran a positive winner/unforced error ratio most of the match, which points to its quality. Yet, Pliskova’s fitness came in question late in the third while errors mounted.
“I was a little bit more tired at the end of the second set,” Pliskova told the press, later, as tweeted by ubitennis. Yet, she said, “Angelique deserves to be number one.”
Given the fact that Pliskova was playing in her first Grand Slam final, having never advanced beyond the first week at a major, her efforts for the fortnight should be major news. This was her breakout tournament.
“I think I did a great job,” she told the press, later, as tweeted by WTAInsider. “It was my first final. [I] still was close to winning. She has more experience to play those finals than mess probably decided in this match. I’m so proud of myself. If someone would tell me I’m going to play finals in this tournament before two weeks I would believe it.”
For Kerber’s efforts, she earned $3.5 million.