Fans like her even without the really big titles – she has won the vote for the most popular player five times in succession. The award for the best dressed - on court - as well.
Kerber has perfected her game, beaten top players and made herself into one too. That she never gives up on a ball is something the Porsche Brand Ambassador has often proved. Only a major title was lacking. And she has achieved the aim quicker than she thought – she won her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open.
It seemed a bit like she had suddenly appeared out of the blue. 2015 was not Garbine Muguruza’s first year as a professional but it was her most successful – final in Wimbledon, tournament win in Beijing to eventually finish the season as the world No. 3. Plus three doubles titles.
When pictured off-court, she is often seen holding the country’s flag in her hand. Halep is a home-loving woman and it is very important for her. A jet set lifestyle as liked by many of her fellow players, with media marathons, at home on the red carpets around the globe? It is not her world – also not in the off season.
Anyone naming the basketball legend Michael Jordan amongst their role models has to inevitably want to fly high. It must be why Carla Suarez Navarro wants to jump up the rankings. This year more than ever before in her career. In February, the Spaniard won the final of the Qatar Total Open, a Premier 5 tournament, against the Latvian Jelena Ostapenko 1-6, 6-4, 6-4. Suarez Navarro’s second career tournament win has moved her up to new heights.
Fairness in sport is always stressed but seldom taken to heart. Petra Kvitova at least tries to saying, “Respecting my opponents was always important to me. Without an opponent, we can’t play this beautiful game.” When competing, one of the biggest priorities is not to show any weakness when the momentum can be lost with every ball.
Veni, vidi, vi(n)ci. She came, saw and Roberta Vinci conquered – and apologised. “It’s the best moment of my life. Sorry for beating Serena but today’s my day,” said Vinci to the 23,771 spectators. They were happy to forgive her. After a match lasting exactly two hours, the Italian left the court having beaten the top-seeded American Serena Williams 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 in the semi-final of the 2015 US Open.
Belinda Bencic started playing tennis at the age of four. In the meantime she is living her dream. Now 18, the Swiss is one of the youngest players on the Tour and is one those that are difficult to beat. Also for Serena Williams. In the Toronto semi-final in 2015, Bencic managed to do something only very few achieve: a win against the current No. 1.
517 times – no resistance. Pretty impressive, pretty good chance of success. At least for Karolina Pliskova. Measured last season at 191.5 km/h, the Czech’s serve is not the quickest but no other player sent down so many aces. 517 times in which Pliskova’s opponents failed to even touch the ball.
Whenever Lucie Safarova loses in the singles, she does not generally have stay annoyed for long – she still has the doubles to come. What other pros see as being additional stress has turned Safarova into a top player – she ended last season as the No. 9 in singles and No. 4 in doubles.
For one person she is definitely the number one: football World Cup winner Bastian Schweinsteiger and Ana Ivanovic are a couple. On court, the Serb is however awaiting another bull’s eye. But she still knows very well what it feels like to win a Grand Slam after bagging the French Open. And to be top of the tree. Ivanovic would love to have the feel back again that she had eight years ago. She is giving it her all.
Andrea Petkovic amuses with her humour and eloquence and she surprises. Especially in November 2015. The last match of a difficult season ended in a 6-0, 6-0 defeat against Carla Suarez Navarro – and revealed deep self-doubt. Is tennis the right thing? Is tennis the only thing? The multifaceted German hinted at retirement. She had to have a quiet think about things. Then three weeks later, relief. “Petko” will continue, with a new coach. The goal remains the same: to play with passion, self-confidence and successfully.
On the Tour, Keys no longer plays a supporting role – especially for the American tennis association. She is seen as being the future of women’s tennis in USA, as the big hope that can take over the mantle of the Williams sisters. Aged 14, Keys won her first main draw match on the WTA Tour – the youngest since Martina Hingis.
On the tennis court, Wozniacki is like a wall that seemingly chases down every ball, is able to return every shot – no matter how long the match has been going on. The mentality lies in her blood. Wozniacki is still chasing at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix – unfortunately a tournament win. She has already stood in the final on two occasions and lost both times against a German – in 2011 against Julia Görges, last year against Angelique Kerber. It would be her turn now.
Sometimes it is all quite simple. To best the best says Caroline Garcia, she has to play the way she likes. Hard hitting, quick and precise. But also patiently and no messing. Garcia masters the combination. Tennis as performed by the Frenchwoman looks so easy. The 22-year old has been on the Tour for the past five years and plays both singles and doubles.
Text first published in the Porsche Tennis/Magazin 2016.
Photos by Victor Jon Goico, WTA, Fotostudie Orel, Matchmaker, Markus Leser, Jürgen Hasenkopf