Angelique Kerber tries to catch her breath and find a spot of peace and quiet after all the hustle and bustle that has clearly done her a world of good. But then thinking about it, the story can start all over again. Even when the situation has changed. One year ago, Angelique Kerber, the German No. 1 and Porsche Brand Ambassador, won the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix. Though the Stuttgart tennis festival is, and not only in the opinion of Tournament Director Markus Günthardt, of a “Grand Slam standard” and, in almost 40 years, has seen two other Germans – Anke Huber and Julia Görges – have their names etched in the roll of honour, the win attracted widespread interest.
Now, however, Angelique Kerber will be returning to Stuttgart as a Grand Slam champion. The win at the Australian Open has turned a well-known tennis player into a sports superstar. Even though the road from Stuttgart to Melbourne was long and winding, the German says: “The win in Stuttgart in 2015 was very important. It gave me a lot of confidence. Things went quite well afterwards and I won a few tournaments. Only, I wasn’t able to play to my full potential when it really mattered.”
Prior to Stuttgart, she had already won in Charleston and followed up the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix with successes in Stanford and Birmingham. Only Serena Williams won more singles titles in 2015. Kerber had beaten big names but could not come good at the Grand Slams. Australian Open, Wimbledon, French Open, US Open – defeat came far too early. She nevertheless reached the Masters final containing the world’s top eight players in Singapore – but was knocked out in the preliminary group phase. Together with coach Torben Beltz, she took some time off to take stock. She plays 25 tournaments per year – few top players play anything like as many. She has a regular place in the Top 10. What’s wrong with that? “I have to take a step forwards,” she told her coach.
So, what do you have to do to achieve it? Today Kerber says, “First of all you have to want it, no ifs and buts. And then you have to do it. And that’s not so easy.” Coach and player decided to concentrate their efforts on the majors, to focus on the more important tournaments and competitions. That it all worked out immediately in Australia came as a surprise to her too. The triumph in the dream final against Serena Williams, a life changing achievement. A childhood dream that has come true – Grand Slam winner.
She is now a part of German tennis history and is named in the same breath as Boris Becker and Steffi Graf. She is seen as the tennis princess that has given a wake-up kiss to the traditionally big interest Germany has for the game. Even before the final she received texts from back home telling her that tennis fans were sitting in front of the television rooting for her. And then afterwards, she was inundated with people congratulating her.
“That so many other sportsmen and women, actors, musicians and Mrs Merkel congratulated me was really, really nice.” Recognition for her, her years of hard work and for her sport. And an experience that is very addictive as one cannot get enough of big wins. “Things go on,” said the 28-year old, “I want more, I want more.”
It’s how she will return to Stuttgart where somehow the happy end all began. With the fantastic win that gave her so much confidence. She comes as the Porsche Brand Ambassador, she comes as the title-holder, but above all she comes as a Grand Slam winner. “At the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix,” she knows, “there are great things awaiting me that I’m going to savour. I’m looking forward to the tournament because the spectators supported me so fantastically there last year.” The story begins anew. Only different as the dreams have been turned into triumphs that are addictive.
How does one rank her achievements, who are the people she trusts most of all, what moves her emotionally away from Centre Court and what makes her a real Porsche Brand Ambassador – below the most important facts about Angelique Kerber:
Chances of winning
The win at the Australian Open at the end of January was the biggest achievement to date for Angelique Kerber. However the most successful season of her 13-year career came in the year before. In 2015, the 28-year old won not only the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix but with further successes in Charleston, Birmingham and Stanford, she actually claimed four of her eight WTA titles that she had won before Melbourne..
Despite internet and social media – when emotions get out of hand, Angelique Kerber likes to fall back on old and trusty means of communication by first of all speaking to people that matter most to her. “When I was finally alone in the locker rooms after the win in Melbourne, I immediately phoned my mother Beata and my sister,” she relates, “and then immediately afterwards my grandparents in Poland. They could hardy bear sitting in front of the television in the two weeks before.”
Cilly Aussem, Hilde Krahwinkel-Sperling, Steffi Graf and Angelique Kerber – the names of the four German women that have won a Grand Slam tournament to date. Steffi Graf by the way 22 times – a world record in the so-called professional era (from 1968). That Graf is still the record-holder is something she has to thank Angelique Kerber for. In the Melbourne final, she beat Serena Williams (USA) who has amassed 21 Grand Slam wins.
At the wheel
Angelique Kerber lovers sports cars. During the course of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, she enjoys being driven around the test track at the Porsche Development Center in nearby Weissach. “The sound, the performance, the grip, the brakes – fascinating what cars can do,” she said. And her driving skills are also pretty good. Trying her hand at the Parking Challenge – a driving skills competition including parking in a Porsche 911 – during the Stuttgart tournament last year, she recorded by far the best time of all the women players.
Text first published in “Porsche Tennis/Magazin 2016”.
Text by Reiner Schloz // Photos by Victor Jon Goico, Porsche AG