Tennis: Rivals salute solid, consistent Kerber

GARBINE MUGURUZA , Spanish world No. 3, on top-ranked Angelique Kerber (above).
GARBINE MUGURUZA , Spanish world No. 3, on top-ranked Angelique Kerber (above).

Despite Wuhan Open blip, fellow professionals hail Kerber's consistency

It was her first week as the world's No. 1 woman tennis player, but it was not an ideal start to Angelique Kerber's reign.

Defeat in her second match at the Wuhan Open by Petra Kvitova saw her out in the round of 16.

It was an uncharacteristic result for the 28-year-old, who has been hailed by rivals for her consistency this season.

Russian world No. 10 Svetlana Kuznetsova, who like Kerber is a two-time Grand Slam champion, noted: "It is important to win matches and to win important matches. That's what Angie did so great this year.

"I see many other girls who work so much in the gym but they're not even close to the top 10.

DEPENDABLE KERBER

In women's tennis, it's hard to find players that are always consistent... Kerber is an example (of consistency) this year.

'' GARBINE MUGURUZA , Spanish world No. 3, on top-ranked Angelique Kerber.

"She's a fighter on the court, she defends a lot and she's consistent."

Consistent. A word that so often describes Kerber's counter-punching style. But, while she had previously been content to just return the ball, she has found a new level of aggression and precision this year.

The German has compiled a 55-15 record this season for a win rate of 78.6 per cent.

From her shock Australian Open triumph in January to her battling US Open win earlier this month, Kerber has more wins than any other player in the Women's Tennis Association.

She has 12 more victories than the second-placed Simona Halep, Agnieszka Radwanska and Dominika Cibulkova, who was set to face Barbora Strycova in the Wuhan Open quarter-finals yesterday.

With all her rivals struggling to keep up, she surged up the rankings from No. 10 at the start of the year to dethrone Serena Williams.

While she is not invincible, she is hard to beat.

In Wuhan on Wednesday, it took Kvitova 3hr 19min to subdue Kerber, who chased down lost causes time and again, sometimes pulling off screaming winners on the stretch.

The powerful Czech said: "She makes her opponents play a few more shots, even if it looks as though the rally is over, she still catches the ball. Even if you serve well, you still have to play long rallies.

"I think that she is very, very solid. She just pushes every (shot) back, and she can find a good (placement). She's moving and returning well, and physically good as well, so she can play almost for forever."

In a season which saw top players beset by injuries (Williams) or bans (Maria Sharapova), Kerber's indefatigable efforts allowed her to rise to the top.

French Open champion Garbine Muguruza admitted that it has been a struggle for her to keep up the winning momentum since clinching her first Grand Slam title in June, recording a 8-7 win-loss record since.

Said the world No. 3: "In women's tennis, it's hard to find players that are always consistent. (Being consistent is) hard for me.

"But I think Kerber is an example (of consistency) this year. She was all the time there in the later rounds at tournaments. That's why she became No. 1."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 30, 2016, with the headline 'Rivals salute solid Angelique'. Print Edition | Subscribe