The road to the top can be long and bumpy. One has to believe in oneself at all times and never give up. Success only comes about as a result of hard work, one needs talent and luck. Off-court, one also needs things that give one a sense of security, pillars that one can rely on. In my case, they are:
Everyone that travels non-stop around the world in the tennis circus yearns for a place where they can retreat to. I’m grateful to have my family. My mother Beata, my sister Jessica and my grandparents are my big supports. They bring me down to earth, give me space to recharge my batteries. Sometimes a telephone call is enough but it’s nicer when we get together. Consoling, cheering me up, calming me down or just leaving me alone – they always find the right words and know how to treat me.
A team with heart and passion is always at my side and accompanies me everywhere on tour. Above all my coach Torben Beltz. I’ve been able to turn to him for the most of my career. He knows me like no other and I know few others that go through life so positively and do their job with so much passion. And then there’s the special people I couldn’t do without – my physiotherapist Cathrin Junker and my manager Aljoscha Thron.
Storage space is limited which is why I take extra care that my energy reserves don’t get out of sync. On the one hand, it’s connected with one’s nutrition. I don’t have a specific plan but I do eat healthy things – with all the little human weaknesses. I eat fish every now and again, even though it’s not exactly one of my favourites. It so to say offsets the temptation to succumb every now and again to pancakes and ice-cream. What’s also really important is regeneration. I sometimes go running as a form of compensation and I swim. As a kid, I was a pretty good swimmer.
Thrilling matches alone are obviously not enough of a kick for me. When I’m on the road, I always have a book with me. I like reading novels – but my favourite reading material is thrillers. At the moment I’m reading “Das Paket“ by Sebastian Fitzek. My personal relaxation, including goose bumps.
Music belongs to the job, it’s practically the same for all the players. But we all have our different ways. The final phase when preparing for a match begins about an hour before. I put my headphones on and listen to music. The latest chart music, R&B, all mixed up. I try to blank out everything around me and focus on my match. To gee themselves up, many players up the beat. For me it’s the other way around. The closer the match gets, the quieter the music.
A nice thought but something that is becoming unfortunately rarer and rarer. The off-court duties have, to put it mildly, increased. But when I do have a free day all to myself, I go for a coffee with friends or to the cinema. And I love musicals, The Lion King, Tarzan, Mamma Mia! – I’ve got no idea how many I’ve seen already. What I like most of all is just to be able to go out like everybody else.
I’m not superstitious. But my grandparents gave me a bracelet many years ago and I always have it with me. However, I don’t always wear it during matches. I’ve got no idea why I sometimes wear it and why I sometimes just put it in my tennis bag. It’s a kind of intuitive. The bracelet has had a partner for a few years now – a chain that I saw in New York. I liked it so I bought it.
Sometimes things happen only after a delay. At the 2016 US Open, I was constantly being asked about the No. 1 spot. Just before the semi-final against Caroline Wozniacki, it was suddenly definite that I really was going to be the new number one. But I didn’t realise it, it didn’t get through to me. It was only when I beat Caro that I suddenly thought, Angie, you’re the number one, you belong there. It was a completely new feeling.
I’ve got several workpieces. Four or five of my Yonex rackets accompany me out on court for every match. They’re all the same, except that is for the length of time they’ve been strung. Some of my fellow players change rackets in the match whenever it’s time for new balls or when things aren’t going their way. I rarely change rackets. It depends a bit on how I feel. But changing rackets is not a part of my routine during a match.
Whenever time allows when I’m travelling – when waiting, breaks in-between practice sessions, evenings in the hotel, I try to read the news and comments of the fans in social media. It’s always so nice to see how many fans follow my career. They congratulate me, suffer with me, gee me up – it’s good for me.
It’s alive and kicking. My confidence increases with every win. And when you’ve won a few matches in a row, it’s easy to be optimistic. It’s different when things aren’t going well. But you also have to remain optimistic, and sometimes even force yourself to be so. Nothing is possible without optimism.
Text first published in Porsche Tennis Magazine 2017.
Text by Angelique Kerber // Photos by Stefan Hobmaier