Less than a month ago, Karolina Pliskova outplayed Angelique Kerber in the final of Western & Southern Open at Cincinnaiti. When the two women met again for the title game at 2016 US Open on Saturday, Kerber could not have rid herself of that event playing back on her psyche. The German won the first set but Pliskova fought back to take the second. Not only that, Pliskova caused a scare for Kerber by breaking her serve in the third game of the final set. With Pliskova’s booming service working for her until then, Kerber looked in real trouble. But the Australian Open champion found the break herself and bounced back into the match. From then on, Kerber kept defending very well and brought down her unforced-error count. She won the thriller in style and collected her second Grand Slam title. Earlier on Friday, defending champion Novak Djokovic entered the US Open final by getting rid of the second Frenchman on his way. But Gael Monfils showed his fighting instincts by taking the third set from the world no.1 before losing. In other men’s semifinal, Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka lost the first set against Japan’s Kei Nishikori, before forcing his way to the US Open final for the first time in his career. On Sunday Wawrinka will have nothing to lose in trying to win his third Grand Slam title by challenging the 2011 & 2015 Champion.
On Saturday, Germany’s Angelique Kerber came out for her duel with the Czech tenth-seeded Karolina Pliskova, after having already been guaranteed world’s no.1 spot in women’s tennis. Five years ago, when Kerber played at US Open, she was world no. 92 but she performed creditably and reached the semifinals. Then she lost to the eventual winner Australia’s Sam Stosur. In subsequent tennis seasons, Kerber has kept improving and broke into the top 10. However, the 2016 season was special to her. She began by taking the Australian Open in January and became a serious threat to other seeded players. Kerber’s worst moment in 2016 was the first-round loss at Roland Garros to Netherlands’ Kiki Bertens but she reached the 2016 Wimbledon final. She couldn’t win against Serena Williams in the title game but went to 2016 Rio. Kerber returned from Rio with women’s singles silver medal. This week, she rose to the summit in women’s tennis after Serena was denied a place in the final by Pliskova. The 28-year old Kerber also proved that it was possible to make difference even at advanced tennis age. After all, only last year, Italy’s Flavia Pennetta had won the US Open at age 33.
Against Pliskova, Kerber began well to take the first set but lost the second. However, her loss to the Czech in the final of Cincinnati Masters last month was one factor clearly weighing on her mind even as she succumbed to trailing 1-3 in the final set. Her winning-point percentage on first serve was just 51 and Pliskova exploited that deficiency. After the break of serve in the third game of the final set, Kerber fought back and broke back in the sixth game to level at 3-3. From then onwards, Kerber played tactically and managed to retrieve Pliskova’s huge shots played in deep corners. In addition, Kerber kept her unforced errors’ count low. That proved decisive as Kerber’s 17 unforced errors were nothing compared to Pliskova’s 47. In addition, Kerber used sliced serves in the corners, which Pliskova found difficult to retrieve. The championship point came in tenth game, when Pliskova rushed to the net on the first two points and Kerber sent the ball past her on the back court. Then Kerber had three championship points, when Pliskova sent an elementary forehand into the net. When the Czech missed again, Angelique Kerber won the match and the 2016 US Open title. She ran to the net and embraced the very tall Pliskova before covering her face with a towel and sobbing uncontrollably.
Earlier on Friday, two men’s finalists for Sunday’s championship game were also decided. In the first, Serbia’s defending champion Novak Djokovic won two sets easily against Gael Monfils before the Frenchman came back strongly to win the third. However, the Serb was undaunted in the fourth and came through with a 6–3, 6–2, 3–6, 6–2 victory. To retain his 2015 crown, Djokovic must beat Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka, who defeated Japan’s no.6 seed Kei Nishikori 4–6, 7–5, 6–4, 6–2 in the other semifinal. Wawrinka lost the first set but came back to win the next three.
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