A story surfaced not long before the Sydney International women’s final that Angelique Kerber was left in tears after her final defeat in 2017.
That came against Ash Barty in Zhuhai, and saw the German continue her steep descent; having been the world’s top-ranked player in July, she was outside the top 20 by November.
Rennae Stubbs on Channel 7 says after losing to Barty in Zhuhai, Kerber reduced to tears right as she got off court, said “I’m so glad this year is over.” Comforted by WTA Supervisor and Barty’s coach.
— Courtney Nguyen (@FortyDeuceTwits) January 13, 2018
Just two months on, it couldn’t have been a more different story.
The German swept to her first title since September 2016 with a win over Barty in the Sydney final. And when asked about that moment in Zhuhai, she was in a better place to reflect on it.
“I was really happy that the year was over, that’s true,” she said.
“I mean, after Zhuhai I was going back home, and I was just trying to take a lot of weeks off and just trying to forget the year, 2017. I was trying to focusing again on my preseason, working hard, and just looking ahead on 2018.
“So this is where I am right now, and this is what I will try to do my best in this year and not looking back again, no.”
Most tennis players talk about focusing only on the match or tournament at hand, and not venturing too far beyond the present moment to either dwell on the past or anticipate the future.
Yet Kerber is truly living that mindset.
Her renaissance, of sorts, began a week earlier at the Hopman Cup, where she went undefeated in four matches. And she carried that form over into Sydney, despite facing the toughest of draws.
“Every single match was really tough, beginning from the first round where I was actually match point down,” Kerber said of her three-set tussle with Lucie Safarova, before she beat Venus Williams, Dominika Cibulkova and Camila Giorgi en route to the final.
“A lot of tough players was playing here. The draw was also not easy. I was not seeded, so, I mean, that was also what I was expecting from the beginning, to have really tough matches.
“But I came here to just playing match by match, and I was not looking too far ahead. I was just trying to getting used to the weather conditions, as well … So actually, yeah, I’m very proud how I was able to play every single day.”
The ultimate victory over Barty in the final catapulted Kerber back inside the top 20 – she’s now No.16 – and positions her as a legitimate title contender for next fortnight’s Australian Open, where she is a former champion.
That stunning major triumph in 2016 kick-started a career-best season that saw her first ascend to world No.1.
“I’m always a person that try to fight. Doesn’t matter what’s happen. I’m always trying to coming back, and this is what I was also trying the last few weeks to working hard and pushing me until my limits,” Kerber said.
“And also, now I know what I can do. I did it 2016 and also the years before.
So this is what I was having always in my mind when I was preparing for this year, and now I won my first title so that’s, for sure, a good way where I am right now.”