July 14, 2018 / 8:47 PM / 4 months ago

2017 slump was key to Wimbledon title, says Kerber

LONDON (Reuters) - Former world number one Angelique Kerber said her Wimbledon triumph on Saturday would not have been possible without experiencing the lows of last year’s slide down the rankings.

Jul 14, 2018; London, United Kingdom; Angelique Kerber (GER) poses with the trophy on day 12 at All England Lawn and Croquet Club. Mandatory Credit: Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

The 30-year-old produced a superb display to beat Serena Williams 6-3 6-3 and become the first German since Steffi Graf in 1996 to lift the Venus Rosewater Dish on Centre Court.

Kerber also beat Williams in the 2016 Australian Open final and is the only player, apart from Serena’s older sister Venus, to beat her twice in a Grand Slam final.

She also won the U.S. Open in 2016 and lost to Serena in the Wimbledon final, rising to number one in the WTA rankings.

The left-hander struggled to deal with the added focus last year, though, when she failed to win a title and slid from number one to 21 in the rankings.

It was a time for soul-searching but the experience made her stronger and she has rebounded in style, reaching the Australian Open final and the quarter-finals at Roland Garros.

“I think without 2017 I couldn’t win this tournament,” Kerber, who will rise back to world number four, told reporters.

“I think I learned a lot from last year, with all the expectation, all the things I go through. I learned so many things about myself.

“I also needed to find the motivation after 2016, which was amazing. To make again such a year is impossible. But I just tried to improve my game, not think too much about the results.”

Bremen-born Kerber said her first experiences of Wimbledon were watching seven-times champion Graf.

Their games are not too similar.

Attacking right-hander Graf relied on her big forehand and serve while left-hander Kerber is more of a counter-puncher, as she displayed to great effect on Saturday when dealing with the inevitable Williams barrage.

“She was playing very different to me, a lot of slice and playing strong off the forehand and having a good serve,” Kerber told reporters. “But the thing I took from her was her movement and that she hit a lot of balls back, but also with intent.

“She was going out there having her mind only on the court and playing every single match her best tennis.”

Graf’s 22 Grand Slam titles spanned 12 years.

While Kerber’s rise has come later in her career she says she is now better equipped to cope with being one of the players everyone wants to beat.

“When you’ve reached the top players have nothing to lose when they play against you,” she said. “I think that was part of what I had to learn after 2016, a process I had to go through.”

Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond

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