By Ros Satar, in Stuttgart
- Angelique Kerber  def. Laura Siegemund [Q] 6-4 6-0
- Kerber defends a title for the first time in her career
STUTTGART, GERMANY – With two narratives to bring the curtain down on the 2016 Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, it was defending champion Angelique Kerber who would grab the headlines once more in a land mark year, which saw her claim her first Grand Slam title.
Britwatch Tennis: Full Draws and Schedules
Angelique Kerber  def. Laura Siegemund [Q] 6-4 6-0
She would be facing the epitome of a local hero, as Laura Siegemund, once hailed as the new future of German tennis, as a top junior at around the time that Steffi Graf was winning her last Slams, made a sprint through the qualifying rounds and was bidding to be the first qualifier ever to win the Stuttgart tournament.
What has been on Siegemund’s side is that as a qualifier she has been the perennial underdog – and as such been able to play free, winning three rounds to make the main draw and knocking out Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, fourth seed Simona Halep, sixth seed Roberta Vinci, and if that was not enough, she bounced top seed Agnieszka Radwanska in straight sets.
It certainly was a dream start for the local – she raced out to a 3-0 lead over the defending champion. It took a while for Kerber to settle enough to start to take the qualifier on at her own game, finally getting on the board and perhaps settling those nerves. Then again getting a break back would have done the trick too.
Siegemund wasn’t going to stick with that breaking Kerber back – if anyone in the media centre was ever in any doubt who the winner of any point was, they had only to listen to the cheers and the crowd response. The mark of a true champion though is to never give in, and with the improvements we have seen in Kerber’s mental fortitude, she hung in there with patience and determination to break back once more to get on level terms.
Kerber’s experience started to tell as she broke back once more before sealing the set on her second set point. We started to see Kerber dictating more of the longer rallies, and perhaps with her energy levels dropping, Kerber was quick to get off to a swift start at the beginning of the second set.
With Siegemund requesting an off-court medical time-out and the resulting agitated exchange with her coach, as the elements of her game that had swept her through the draw were beginning to desert her. The turning point was the long battle at the start of the second set, with Siegemund staving off three break points before Kerber broke in the first game, lasting over 11 minutes, and from there (no pun intended) it was all one-way traffic.
Siegemund admitted it was probably today match to far:
“I think mentally I think could have pulled myself together for one afternoon but it was physically. It’s also, they say that when you feel tired physically, mentally you’re already very tired much before you know so there is some bad decision making where you go ‘ah Jesus Christ why this shot now’ but it’s just this combination that it’s just difficult. But I would say mentally you can always work on it. Physically there is nothing to grab if there is no energy – you need to run to play tennis [laughs].”
Now there are some big decisions to make – she has had to withdraw from next wek’s tournament in Rabat (she was due to play tomorrow) and this will now open up her schedule.
Kerber admitted it took her a while to get into the match, after Siegemund leapt out to a 3-0 start and that the title defence was made extra special at home after such a great start to her season.
“I was trying to stay focused after she really had the great start. Like after [a] few games at the beginning I just start to feel my rhythm. That was I think the key that I really started to hit the balls and try to believe in my game and myself. I was moving very well today and I think that was also very important against her. Yeah I was trying to stay a little bit relaxed in the first set.
“To win my first grand slam and winning here in front of my home crowd, I mean yeah that’s the best start ever, and it’s so special to win after a grand slam, also the tournament here at home. Everybody’s here, I know all the faces, to feeling at home and playing in front of this crowd, it’s always amazing. That’s why it’s like much more special this year to win this tournament.”
But maybe what has been a standout is that even without Maria Sharapova, the tournament had record crowds in to watch the qualifying rounds, and were sold out from Thursday to the end of the week. No-one really knows what the impact of the doping ban will have on the closing stages of Sharapova’s career, and her reign as the Queen of Porsche had already been parked when she lost to Kerber in her opening round last year. It of course remains to be seen if Kerber can maintain a dominant run here, but the signs are certainly good (Fed Cup ties notwithstanding).
Viktoria Wohlrapp, Porsche’s Sports Communications Manager told Britwatch Sports: “We always knew that after Australian open, Angie could be the star this year. Being German and of course being the Australian Open title holder we knew that she would steal the show anyway from Maria so from that perspective, you know all the communication the tournament magazine was really focussing on her because we owed that to the public and we were so happy that we have someone like this in Germany because the demand for Angie in Germany is very big at the moment.
“I’m really sad that Maria couldn’t make it this year but it was always clear to us that the defending champion and Australian Open title holder was going to be the German star.”
With hardly any points to defend in Madrid and Rome, she needs to make a smart decision about competing in Nurnberg. We can understand the desire to appear for the home fans and put on a good show, but with a gap of less than 3000 points between World Nos. 1 and 2, the race is on and we could well see the foundations being laid for a new World No. 1 before the summer on grass is out.
Until then, the steering wheel of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix remains in Kerber’s safe hands.
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