LONDON – Angelique Kerber became the first German woman to win Wimbledon for 22 years on Saturday, but insisted the seeds of her shock triumph over Serena Williams were sown during a miserable 2017 season.
This time last year, Kerber was knocked out in the fourth round at the All England Club following a first round exit at Roland Garros.
Another first-round loss at the US Open, where she was defending champion, contributed to her ending the year at 21 in the world, her lowest ranking in six seasons.
“I think without 2017, I couldn’t win this tournament,” said the 30-year-old Kerber after seeing off Williams 6-3 6-3.
“I think I learned a lot from last year, with all the expectations, all the things I went through.
“I learned so many things about myself, about the things around, how to deal with this, how to make my day schedule.
“Now I try to enjoy every single moment.”
This year has reflected that new approach.
Now with coach Wim Fissette, who has worked with the likes of Victoria Azarenka, Simona Halep and Kim Clijsters, she captured the Sydney title in January and made the semi-finals at the Australian Open and last-eight at Roland Garros.
Saturday’s victory was Kerber’s third title at the Slams – all coming after her 28th birthday.
She stunned Williams in the 2016 Australian Open final to claim her maiden Grand Slam title.
Six months later, she was runner-up to Williams at Wimbledon before adding a second career major at the US Open with victory over Karolina Pliskova.
Before her breakthrough at the 2016 Australian Open, she had played 31 Slams with runs to the semi-finals at the 2011 US Open and 2012 Wimbledon representing her best performances.
Kerber, her country’s first women’s champion at the All England Club since Steffi Graf in 1996, admitted that her late career surge was due to a fear of time running out.
But her confidence ahead of Saturday, where she became just the second woman to defeat Serena more than once in a Slam final, was also buoyed by her late blooming.
“I’m 30 already. I had so much experience over the years. I know the feeling to going out there in the semi-finals, playing the finals.
“I played here once the final already, so I knew what to expect. I think that helps me also to being a little bit relaxed today.”
Kerber, born to a German father and Polish mother, was also quick to acknowledge the influence of Graf, who won 22 Grand Slam singles titles, including seven at Wimbledon.
“My first memories was watching Steffi here, winning matches in two sets.
“Everybody was playing in white on the grass court. I think Wimbledon is something special.
“Winning here, it’s forever.”