Garbi?e Muguruza at an Adidas promotional event for the Australian Open. Photo: Adidas/Supplied Angelique Kerber is going to play like she has nothing to lose. Photo: Adidas/Supplied
Australian Open champ Angelique Kerber started 2016 match-point down to Misaki Doi in the first round of the tournament, staring at a big flame-out.
Kerber, the seventh seed, had lost just one game to the 64th-ranked Doi when they met. She lost a lot more, and quickly – losing the first set 7-6 and trailing 6-5 in a second-set tie-break on the 2016 Open’s first Tuesday.
That was the moment, the 28-year-old said on Thursday, when her career changed.
She won match-point, and swatted away Doi in the third set. But she thought her tournament was done.
“After this match I had no expectation at all,” she told media on Thursday.
Sometimes, for elite athletes – especially in so singular a game as tennis – that lack of expectation can be freeing.
“I was just feeling free, I was playing good tennis, and I was enjoying every single match,” Kerber said.
It worked. Last year Kerber played the best tennis of her career by attacking the ball, going for her shots and swatting away opponents.
Playing that way she won the Australian and US Opens, and was a beaten finalist at Wimbledon. She beat Serena Williams in three sets in Australia, Karolina Pliskova in three in America, and then lost in two to Williams at Wimbledon.
She enters 2016 the woman to beat, holding tight to the No.1 ranking after ending Serena’s record-tying 186 consecutive weeks in the top spot.
But she remains determined to play like she has nothing to lose.
“I have to go back to this feeling, to having no expectation, just going out there playing match by match and enjoying the feeling.”
“I am confident, I know how to win Grand Slams now. This year’s a little bit different, it will be a new challenge for me, but I’m ready for that new challenge.
“I’m feeling the pressure by myself as well, because now I know how good I can play. But the most important thing I have learned is to go out and have fun on court.”
The other non-Serena grand slam winner of last season, Spain’s Garbine Muguruza, believes this year’s Open field is more, well, open, than the past few in which Williams started as the clear title favourite.
“I think today it is a little bit more equal than last year’s,” said the French Open champion and world No.7. “There are a lot of girls that can hold the trophy.”
A key to it being Muguruza, she thinks, is the greater calmness she has been working towards after some rough patches post-Roland Garros. Expectations inevitably rose after the 23-year-old’s maiden major, but she did not pass the second round at either the Wimbledon or US Open that followed. She is yet to reach the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park.
“As soon as one person makes a great result [people] think ‘she’s going to eat the world’,” said Muguruza, “It is not like this. There’s a lot of girls playing incredible and they’re going to beat me sometimes. I’m trying not to really hear [that].”
A thigh injury and fatigue after several lengthy matches at the Brisbane International prompted Muguruza’s retirement just five games into her semi-final against Alize Cornet, and she admitted she was still not back to full fitness.
“I did have a lot of hours, it was crazy,” Muguruza said. “It was a very good tournament at the start of the year I had great three matches and I struggled to recover a little bit because it was very tough but I’m happy to be here in Melbourne already.
“I think [I am] not 100 per cent yet but I still have four more days to recover.”
Simona Halep will be seeded fourth, two spots lower than last year, when she was upset by China’s Shuai Zhang in the opening round. Now working with Australian coach Darren Cahill, the Romanian said she had deliberately avoided setting goals for 2017.
“I think I focused too much on the result before and it didn’t work that well. So now, I’m just relaxing and enjoying,” said the former French Open finalist. “I’m excited, but I’m nervous, too, because it’s the first grand slam of the year. But I am prepared. I worked hard in the off-season and I’ve worked hard since I have been here so I’m just waiting to start the official matches and to give my best.”
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.