Karolina Pliskova d. Serena Williams 6-2, 7-6(5)
It was a strange moment. As Angelique Kerber made her way onto court, fresh in the knowledge that she was to become the new world No.1 on Monday, she paused at the entrance to Arthur Ashe for the customary pre-match interview with Pam Shriver. “How does it feel to be the 22nd female to rank world No. 1?” she was asked. With a spot in a first US Open final on the line, Kerber had no time to dwell on the ambitions of a lifetime being fulfilled. That could come later. For now, her attentions were on another piece of personal history.
If there were any lingering effects to the news they didn’t show, with Kerber opening with four straight games. Throughout the match, she played to Caroline Wozniacki’s weaknesses, giving her Danish opponent little pace on the ball and inviting her to come at her. When she did, Kerber thrived, counter-punching with great success.
At 5-1 up in the second set, Kerber looked set to wrap up a comfortable win on a balmy night in New York, but then she tightened. She proceeded to lose the next nine points in a row and when she got a look at a second match point at 5-4 she began hitting moon balls over the net in a desperate attempt to draw an error from the Dane. Wozniacki, to her credit, stepped in to ping a backhand down-the-line but soon she found herself miscuing Kerber’s deep forehand high and long.
Replays showed that the German’s shot was in fact long, and a Wozniacki challenge would have put the score back to deuce. Instead, she dropped the head and across the net Kerber, the new world No.1, was summoning the Serena celebration, pointing her index finger to the sky.
“It feels amazing,” said Kerber. “The day came today, and to now be the No. 1 in the world, that was always a dream for me.
“I was trying to not think too much the whole last few weeks about this, and now I reach it. So it's something really special for me. I was dreaming for this.”
Verdict: A just reward for Kerber, who at 28 has reinvented herself to become one of, if not the most reliable performer on the Tour. Having been afflicted by it in Paris, Kerber appears to have escaped the curse of the first time Grand Slam winner, and right now it's hard to envisage her dropping off.
Stat of the day:
Kerber is just the fourth player in the Open Era to reach three Grand Slam finals in the same year they reached their first, after Evonne Goolagong Cawley (1971), Steffi Graf (1987) and Martina Hingis (1997).
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