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'Sunday Interview': Now I trust my game, says Angelique Kerber

Sunday, 28 October 2012 - 5:00am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

Krithika Gopalkrishnan has on-board World No 5 Angelique Kerber, who has had a rapid rise from No 107 to No 5 in the WTA rankings.

What are your thoughts on your maiden appearance at the WTA Championships...
I feel proud, excited and honoured. I have been working really hard this year to improve my game and my fitness. It was kind of a reward to qualify for the Istanbul Championships.

In the first week of October, you had to retire from the quarterfinals of the China Open owing to an injury...
I first take the opportunity you give me to apologise to Maria (Sharapova) and the audience. I felt the pain the day before the match and as I was playing I felt it stronger and stronger. I had to stop, else it would have been worse. I took rest and also withdrew from Luxembourg in order to recover. Thankfully, I was able to play at the Championships.

2012 has been the best year of your career. Your thoughts?
I’ve been working really hard to get there. I gained a lot of confidence by the fact that my work was paying off and I was able to defeat top players. I feel stronger mentally and physically than I was a year ago. But I know I still need to improve so that I can continue being a consistent top 10 player and grow into the top 5.

You have also attained the distinction of being the first player in the WTA to hit 60 wins this year...
The WTA have told me that and it’s kind of unexpected. It’s also a big improvement as my last year record was something like 20.
From world No 107 to world No 5, it’s been a rapid rise. Did you see this coming? What do you attribute your success to?
I believe one of the key things has been my practice — the way I take them and the way I have been doing it this past year. I practised a lot more and really gave importance to fitness training. Also, winning Paris gave me the confidence that was missing. Now, I feel I trust my game. Knowing I can beat top players was necessary to take me to another level.

This has been a year of firsts. You bagged your first WTA title, made your first Olympic appearance and you participated in the Championships for the first time...
It’s, with no doubt, the most important year of my career. I’ll carry on to improve and be consistent, establish myself as a good and complete top 10 player and hopefully grow.

Your experience of playing in the Fed Cup...
It’s always a different experience. You play for your country, you’re part of a team. It feels good to have the opportunity to play with my friends, with the girls and defend your country.

In the Western and Southern Open this year, you ended Serena Willia-ms’s 19-match winning streak by beating her in the semifinals. How would you rate that performance?
I felt good that day, I played my best tennis and was confident. But Serena is an amazing player. Beating her brought me to another level, gave me part of the confidence I’m still

You have reached the semifinals of two of the last five Grand Slams. How long before we see you winning one?
It’s a tough question. It don’t think I have the answer. It depends on so many factors... Hopefully, my physical and mental conditions allow me to get there.

What went wrong at the US Open?
I don’t really know what went wrong. Sara (Errani) is a strong player in both doubles and singles, she played great tennis that day, she played better.

How was the experience of meeting one of your childhood favourites Steffi ?
In three words: Amazing, unexpected, exciting!

No German woman has reached a Grand Slam final since Graf did at the 1999 Wimbledon. Do you think you will be able to break that jinx?
I really hope so...

The most memorable match of your career so far…
It’s been the most important year of my career and every match has been memorable. Playing and sometimes beating top players like Maria, Serena... I would say the whole year has been a memorable one!!!

Would you like to play more doubles matches? One player you wish to partner in doubles…
Of course yes, even if I’m more focused on my singles career. Very few players such as Vika (Azarenka) or Sara (Errani) handle both careers impressively. I would love to play with my good friend Andrea (Petkovic).

There were talks that you were cont-emplating quitting tennis following a first round loss at Wimbledon last year. Could you elaborate?
It happens that some losses hit you stronger and make you lose your confidence, your love for the game. You’re just completely down, you feel empty but then, the passion for your sport and the competitive and fighting spirit you have, get you back on your feet and help you to come back stronger.

Your views on the rise of tennis in Germany?
I’m happy and proud I’m part of this rise. It’s good for the country and good for us. I feel proud and happy that German tennis is doing so well. We are all close to each other, we have a healthy rivalry and in the end we all support each other.

What do you consider your strengths and what are the areas you need to improve?
I’m a big fighter, also my backhand and movement I think are my strengths. I need to work on my serve, my attitude on court (focus).

You beat India’s Sania Mirza at the 2010 Wimbledon Championship. How do you rate her as a player?
She is good player, a tough opponent, she has real good shots. I really wish her the best for the coming season.

Who inspired you to take up tennis? What would you have pursued had you not become a tennis player?
Who? Steffi!!! I started swimming. I might have pursued swimming. I really like what sport and especially tennis brings into my life.

A few tips to budding tennis players…

Being a tennis player, an athlete really needs involvement. You have to be ready to dedicate yourself to your passion, to your sport. It means sacrifices to reach your goals.

Do you follow football? If yes, your views on the German football team…
I DO! My favourite team: Bayern Munchen... It tells you everything...!

One German legend you would like
to meet?

I had a chance to meet with Steffi at Wimbledon. If I can, I would love to meet her again and spend more time with her because she is a great person. I would also like to meet Magdalena Neuner, she is a great athlete. These two German athletes are examples to follow, they are legends.

Kerber’s favourites
Book: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Destination: Australia
Hobby: Dancing
Sports personality: Steffi Graf and Magdalena Neuner
Food: Polish food

Know Kerber
Full name: Angelique Kerber
Country: Germany
DoB: January 18, 1988
Age: 24
Turned pro: 2003
Plays: Left-handed
Singles Career titles: 2 WTA, 11 ITF
Grand Slams
Australian Open: Round 3 (2010, 2012)
French Open: QF (2012)
Wimbledon: SF (2012)
US Open: SF (2011)
Other tournaments
Olympic Games: QF (2012)
Doubles Career titles: 3 ITF

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