Sunday, 11 September 2016

Angie Kerber's US Open Title

The women's singles final at the 2016 US Open was well worth the two week wait as two players at the top of their form, with very different games, clashed in Arthur Ashe Stadium in NYC.

Not surprising was the nervous start from Karolina Pliskova.  The Czech 10th seed, appearing in her first final at this level, was first to serve, and began with a double fault.  A volleying error presented Kerber with two break points - an ace saved one, but a poor forehand gifted the second seed a break of serve straight away.

Pliskova attacked the Kerber forehand, forcing errors and creating a break back point, but the same forehand was responsible for three winners in the game, one which saved the break.  

The next six games went with serve, and not many opportunities were provided for the receiver.  Pliskova had settled and was hitting several winners, while Angie was doing what she does so well, keeping her mistakes to an absolute minimum, while still penetrating with her lethal forehand.

At 3-5 , Karolina needed to at least hold on and force Angie to serve for the set - at 30-30 though she delivered a double fault, the first since the opening point of the match.  Kerber had a set point which she used enthusiastically, belting a typical forehand winner for a 6-3 lead.

Set one was good - not as good as the second where the standard rose, and Karolina Pliskova proved that she belonged in the elite class. The Czech serve was on song, and even Kerber could hardly win a point once the first delivery hit the mark.  No break chances came the German way.
Angie came to the net once without success - Karolina was there 14 times, only once losing the point while visiting.
Two break chances materialised, and in the seventh game, those trips to the net realised dividends, two winners key to the only break of serve in the set.

Pliskova served out a 6-4 gem to level the match, and send a real challenge to Kerber.

The first two games of the decider were comfortable holds of serve, but it was Pliskova who made the first significant move in the third game.  A Czech backhand winner and two forced errors from the German backhand, formed the basis of a service break, coming after the first break point had been saved.  2-1 to Karolina

Angie struck back as most thought she would.  After two relatively simple holds, one by each player, Pliskova at 3-2 could not maintain her advantage. In a game where every point was decided by an errant final shot, the final shot of the game was a Czech mistake, deleting the hard fought early edge.

Kerber seized the situation, and held serve to take the numerical lead 4-3, although the games were on serve.  Pliskova equalised at 4-4 and in her attempt to do likewise for 5-5, she was welcomed with a sizzling Kerber forehand winner.
The rest was a trio of unforced errors from the Pliskova racquet, the final forehand misfire confirming a 6-3 4-6 6-4 victory to Angelique Kerber.

The first US Open win for Angie gives her the first and last majors for 2016, and the legitimacy sought by anyone displacing Serena Williams from the number one ranking spot, which will become official on Monday.

Karolina Pliskova performed admirably in her Grand Slam debut final, and with her weapons - the first serve is extremely intimidating, and may well have blown any other player off the court in this final - she is poised to play a major role in Grand Slam tournaments in the future.  This was a huge step forward from someone who had in the past never progressed beyond the third round.

Kerber is the real deal and is intimidated by no one, safe in the knowledge that she has a game which suits all surfaces - clearly hard courts are best, but grass is also ok, as evidenced by the Wimbledon final, lost to Serena Williams but not without a decent contest.

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