Kerber lifts US Open trophy with gritty win over Pliskova

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New York—Angelique Kerber won the US Open on Saturday, marking her rise to world number one with a gritty victory over Karolina Pliskova for her second Grand Slam title of the year.
Germany’s Kerber, the second seed, rallied from a break down in the third set to beat the hard-hitting 10th-seeded Czech 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.
She added the US Open crown to the Australian Open title she claimed in January, breaking Pliskova at love to cap the triumph.
“Amazing to win a second Grand Slam in one year,” Kerber said. “It’s the best year of my career.
“It all started for me here in New York five years ago when I reached the semi-finals and now I am here with the trophy,” she added. “It’s incredible.”
The 28-year-old, who beat Serena Williams in the final at Melbourne and lost to the US great in the Wimbledon final, will officially rise to world number one on Monday.
But she was assured of that spot when Pliskova toppled Williams in the semi-finals.
“To be number one and win Grand Slam titles was always my dream ever since I was a little girl,” Kerber said. “It means so much.”
Pliskova, who had never made it past the third round of a Grand Slam in 17 prior attempts, also beat Venus Williams en route to the title match, becoming just the fourth player to beat both Williams sisters in the same Grand Slam.
Pliskova was the first player to take a set off Kerber at Flushing Meadows.
Her powerful groundstrokes had Kerber on the run at times, but her 47 unforced errors were, finally, too much to overcome.
When her final forehand sailed out, Kerber was launched on a joyous celebration, climbing into the stands to greet her coach.
Kerber took advantage of Pliskova’s big-match nerves—evidenced by a couple of misses at the net—to break in the opening game.
The quick advantage gave Kerber plenty of breathing room.
She was able to maintain it with authoritative play from the baseline, fending off three break points before cracking Pliskova’s serve again when the Czech double-faulted to give her a set point.
Kerber seized her chance with a forehand down the line to pocket the first frame in 44 minutes.
Karolina Pliskova vowed not to turn her back on her all-or-nothing game despite it falling short in her three-set defeat to Angelique Kerber in Saturday’s US Open final.
The 24-year-old Czech lost 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 to the new world number one but she came tantalisingly close to a maiden Grand Slam win when she led 3-1 with a break in the decider.
In the end, however, her 47 unforced errors—a consequence of her big-hitting approach—compared to Kerber’s meagre 17 proved her undoing.
“You have the pressure that she’s gonna ace you four times in a game, but you still have to be aggressive and hit winners, otherwise I cannot be the one who is running with her,” said Pliskova.
“I cannot play 30 times across the net. It’s gonna just kill me. I just have to go for my shots.” Pliskova, the first Czech woman in the US Open final since Helena Sukova in 1993, had defeated both Serena and Venus Williams to reach the final.
But Kerber, the Australian Open champion in January and Wimbledon runner-up in July, proved too steady an obstacle—in the first set, the 28-year-old committed just three unforced errors.
Pliskova said that the fact Kerber is left-handed was also a key factor in the way the final played out.
It’s a style that she found hard to counter even though her twin sister Kristyna, a fellow player on the tour, is also left-handed.
“I didn’t play a lefty girl in this tournament. She’s always serving to the backhand. You cannot do much from it. Then she has the whole court open,” said Pliskova.
“There aren’t many left-handed girls in the top 100, so there is no time where you can practice against a lefty. It’s always tough to play them.”—AFP