Sunday, February 12, 2012

Kerber wins her first title

Angelique Kerber, the U.S. Open's surprise semifinalist, has followed up her Flushing Meadows run with continual improvement. Today, she won her first title, and a nice one at that. Kerber defeated Marion Bartoli 7-6, 5-7, 6-3 to win the Open GDF SUEZ in Paris. All week long, Bartoli had fought back from next-to-impossible situations, and it was easy to believe that she would fight back again in the final, even when she was down 0-4 in the third set. In fact, the Frenchwoman dramatically saved four match points on her own serve at 2-5 in the final set, and I, for one, thought she might break Kerber when she served for the match.

That was what happened in the second set. Bartoli broke when Kerber was a set up and serving at 5-3, so why not again? But Kerber--going against her own recent history, against Bartoli's huge fighting instinct, and against the crowd's wish for a French champion--stayed very cool and easily served her way to her first championship.

Bartoli was reduced to tears, and I felt for her. She had come back over and over all week, and not being able to come back one last time must have been hard for her to accept. Kerber, however, gave Bartoli all she could handle, matching her big groundstrokes and sometimes showing a bit of trickery to get Bartoli out of her rhythm. I thought it was a great match, and I was impressed that Kerber came back with such force after having lost her opportunity to win in straight sets.

It's hard to think of a player who has improved so much since Petra Kvitova made her big surge. Kerber is definitely someone to keep an eye on in the months to come.

Top seeds Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond won the doubles title. They defeated Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Petra Martic 7-6, 6-1 in the final.

The Paris tournament also featured some favorites in the stands. In addition to Amelie Mauresmo, the event's co-director, we also got to see Martina Hingis, Monica Seles and Martina Navratilova. Mauresmo and Navratilova participated in the awards ceremony.

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