By Ros Satar, in Stuttgart
- Defending champion and Porsche Ambassador Angelique Kerber returns to her home tournament as a Grand Slam champion
- Ready to prove herself on the clay
STUTTGART, GERMANY – Winning a Slam changes everything, as Angelique Kerber told the press as she returns to Stuttgart as the defending champion.
Any player at their home tournament finds some degree of pressure – home fans want to see home success, and while some players thrive, some players can collapse under the pressure.
For the German players in particular, with their strongest Fed Cup team in years, in the past couple of years the home players have been veritably clobbered under the weight of the tight scheduling – the year they returned from Australia just in time for the tournament opening ceremony stands out.
The team, with spokesperson Andrea Petkovic all struggled to make headway and indeed last year Petkovic wailed humourously that just once she would like to play well in her home tournament.
Last year though it was Kerber’s year, defeating the three-time defending champion Maria Sharapova in the second round before kicking through the rounds and facing Caroline Wozniacki in the final, coming from a set down to lift a second clay court title in a row.
It was a steady year with perhaps earlier losses in the big tournaments (Madrid, Rome) and a semi-final in Nurnberg, but did not translate to the success expected in Roland Garros.
Could this be the year she adapts her gritty game to the dirt?
She said, in her pre-tournament press conference: “I think since last year I think that I can play also good on clay. I played last year good here, won on clay, I played great matches on the clay courts, I think that, I hope that this year will be one of my best clay court seasons.
“You know that you have much longer rallies. You must run for like maybe two or three hours.”
Running for hours is one of the things Kerber does best. A determined grinding game, she will toil on court for hours to get everything back, but in recent months has really worked hard on putting some aggression into her game, but refreshingly knows that her staying power is her strength.
With that though comes one of the areas she has suffered greatly with in the past – the mental fortitude to go for the kill. Her mental collapse in Singapore proved to be the turning point. When tentatively reminding her of that pressure she felt to reach the final, she admitted that she never wanted to feel that kind of stress again.
She honestly seems to be learning as all these new experiences rack up. Her return to the tour after her win over Serena Williams in Melbourne was not as stellar as she had hoped but backed up with a good run in Miami, Charleston and then two Fed Cup wins, has she found the winning formula?
She said: “After my win I know that a lot of people recognise me and the media are much bigger now. I think it’s good for me, it’s good for the German tennis.
“I’m getting used to it. At first there were too many things I had to do, and right now I think I know how to handle it, how to play the tennis still, enjoying the moment of course.”
She continued: “I think for me it was still two bad tournaments and after that I was playing better and better , and I think I get used to the situation with the pressure and all these things I’m doing off court. Yeah, I’m happy that I’m now on the track again and playing good tennis.”
Let’s hope that is the omen to send her on her way to another Porsche.
Smiling, she told us: “I’m ready for the second one!”
Kerber will open her defence against compatriot Annika Beck.
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