• Djokovic, Kerber rule Australian Open

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    Angelique Kerber AFP PHOTO

    Angelique Kerber
    AFP PHOTO

    MELBOURNE: Novak Djokovic beat a misfiring Andy Murray in straight sets to win a record-equalling sixth Australian Open title on Sunday.

    The Serbian world number one won 6-1, 7-5, 7-6 (3) win in two hours, 53 minutes to hand Murray his fifth defeat in the Australian Open final.

    Angelique Kerber, meanwhile, said it feels like a second coming in her career after she won her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, and also learned an important lesson: just “go for it.”

    The 28-year-old German, born in Bremen to Polish parents, broke through for her maiden major success at her 33rd attempt, shocking world number one Serena Williams 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 and gaining a legion of new fans.

    She celebrated on Sunday by taking a swim in the Yarra river next to the Rod Laver Arena, in echoes of the dip American Jim Courier took after his 1992 championship win on the same court.

    After plugging away since turning professional in 2003, Kerber had a breakout year in 2015 when she won four tournaments, more than doubling her career total to seven.

    She had never gone beyond the semis at a major before but with a Grand Slam title now next to her name, she said it felt like a new chapter had begun.

    “Maybe it’s the second,” she said, when asked if it felt like a new career was beginning, adding that she had proven herself not just by beating Williams but also two-time champion Victoria Azarenka in the quarter-finals.

    “You know, when I won the first set, when I won against Azarenka, that showed me that I really am a good player and I can show it as well on the big courts,” she said.

    Novak Djokovic AFP PHOTO

    Novak Djokovic
    AFP PHOTO

    “I was not playing very good last year on the big tournaments. This is the first big tournament of the year, and I won it, the first Grand Slam.”

    Kerber is only the fourth player to conquer Williams in 26 Grand Slam finals, joining the American’s older sister Venus, Russian Maria Sharapova and Australian Samantha Stosur.

    Mental toughness
    Her career plumbed the depths in 2011, when she lost 11 times in the first round before her game finally clicked and took her to the semi-finals of the US Open.

    Saturday’s stunning upset over Williams, a 21-time Grand Slam, champion sent Germany into a spin, with a host of sports stars hailing the achievement, along with Chancellor Angela Merkel.

    “With this win, you have not only fulfilled your big dream, but, 17 years after Steffi Graf, also the millions of tennis fans hoping for a German win at a Grand Slam tournament,” said Merkel.

    The elated Kerber, who lives in Poland, said she was proud of finally fulfilling the belief of family and friends that she could reach the pinnacle.

    “I think it’s more like proud about my team, my family, my friends. They are always believing in me,” she said.

    “I’m not the easiest person sometimes. I had also a few downs where I was not so believing in myself. All my family and friends, they believed always in me.

    “They told me, ‘Okay, let’s go to work and you will do it someday’. Yeah, that’s true what they said actually at the end.

    “I think it’s more like proud that the hard work pays off right now.”

    The upset against Williams ensures she will become world number two when the new rankings are out on Monday, behind only the American great.

    Kerber attributed a tougher mental outlook as crucial to taking down the top seed, who had won all six of her previous Melbourne Park finals.

    AFP

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