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Rising Kerber wins maiden WTA title

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Originally published on: 13/02/12 09:54

Consider the standout performer on the WTA over the past six months and Angelique Kerber’s name probably won’t be the first that comes to mind. Perhaps it should.

On Sunday, the 24-year-old German capped a remarkable surge in form that began five months ago at Flushing Meadows by winning her first WTA title at the Open GDF Suez in Paris.

The Bremen-born left-hander showed how far she has come by hanging tough for two hours and 39 minutes to defeat Marion Bartoli 7-6(3) 5-7 6-3.

“This win is unbelievable for me. I will enjoy it for sure over the next days,” beamed Kerber. “I believe in myself more. I know I can play with the top players.”

Spare a look at the rankings this morning and it’s becoming increasingly clear that Kerber is making a beeline toward becoming one of those top players. Now ranked No.22 in the world after securing her first top 10 scalps this week – against Maria Sharapova in the quarter-finals and in denying home favourite Bartoli her first WTA crown on French soil in the final – it’s been some six months for a player who turned pro all the way back in 2003.

Kerber caught attention at the US Open last year after beating Agnieszka Radwanska in round two before marching on to the semi-finals. Eventual champion Sam Stosur finally stopped her dream run, but the German admits things really clicked for her at the last Grand Slam of 2011.

“From that moment, I was feeling without pressure,” said Kerber. “I began to believe in me and in my game. I’m for sure a little bit stronger mentally. I’m a little bit fitter than one year ago.”

Kerber has started 2012 in fine form, beating three players ranked above her to reach the semi-finals in Auckland, before making the same stage in Hobart.

Eventual Australian Open finalist Sharapova taught her a lesson in the third round in Melbourne, but it is one she very much heeded, bouncing back to beat the three-time Grand Slam champion last week.

“Angelique is someone who has been playing really good tennis the last six months, and had a great result at the US Open,” said Sharapova after her quarter-final defeat.

“She’s really starting to break through. And being a lefty gives her a bit of an edge – she has a great game for it, but she’s also someone who’s very aggressive, stays low, is very strong and runs well. She has many pluses.”

That she does, and they seem to keep on coming. Ranked just inside the top 100 six months ago, Kerber is now the first German to win the Open GDF Suez since Steffi Graf did so in 1995.

Quick work. Where might she be six months from now?

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