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Kerber edges past Pliskova in enthralling US Open Final

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angelique_kerber.jpgNewly crowned world no.1 Angelique Kerber celebrated her achievement in the best possible fashion, winning her second Grand Slam title of the year, following up her triumph in January at the Australian Open by collecting her first ever US Open crown, narrowly beating out 10th seed Karolina Pliskova, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 in an enthralling final at Flushing Meadows, New York on Saturday.

24 year old Czech star Pliskova, playing in her maiden Grand Slam final, had made it to Saturday's showpiece on the back of wins against Serena and Venus Williams, and the youngster continued to show that she is definitely one for the future, but nerves got the better of her on the big day as Kerber battled back from a break down in the decider to win 5 of the last 6 games to turn a 3-1 deficit into a 6-4 triumph.

 

Pliskova, predictably showed signs of nerves early in the match, dropping her opening service game in what was a decisive moment in the first set. Kerber, playing largely error free tennis, was just that much better than the Czech right through the set and wrapped it up with the help of a second break of serve in the 9th game to take it 6-3.

Any thought though that this was going to be an easy victory for Kerber soon vanished as Pliskova found the range on her ground strokes in the second set, and though she still lacked consistency on her delivery, the match was suddenly a lot more competitive.

After 6 straight holds, Kerber came under pressure on her serve in the all important seventh game, and Pliskova finally cashed in on her fifth break point opportunity to sneak ahead 4-3 in the second set. The break was clinched with the help of a lob volley after Kerber chased down a shaky first volley from Pliskova, put opted to try and place it to the right of the Czech star instead of smashing the cover off the ball. It proved to be a costly miss from Kerber as the 6 foot 1 inch Pliskova stuck out her racquet and controlled the ball over the German to get that first break.

A shaky hold from Pliskova, one wherein Kerber's forehand once again let her down on the clutch points allowed the Czech to consolidate the break. Pliskova had a sniff of a chance to break again in the 9th game, but had to be content with closing out the set on her own save, this time landing 4 out of 6 first serves in the game, and that made all the difference.

With the momentum now firmly in her favour it was little surprise that the stronger Pliskova picked up the first break of the deciding set in the third game. Kerber had already saved one break point with a well placed serve, but an inopportune backhand error from the German gave Pliskova the break and a 2-1 lead.

An easy hold in the fourth game allowed Pliskova to consolidate the break, but with the match seemingly slipping away from her, Kerber managed to regain her poise and followed up a hold to love to stem the tide.

With the match now seemingly Pliskova's to lose, the Czech produced a poor error-strewn game allowing Kerber to break back, and the world no.1 made it three games in a row as she held serve again to nudge ahead 4-3 in the decider.

It was Pliskova's turn to stem the rot, nervously holding on to her serve to restore parity in the final set, doing so at the third attempt after fumbling her way through the game. An increasingly consistent Kerber though showed no signs of nerves on the other end of the court as she held again to love to move ahead 5-4, forcing Pliskova to serve to stay in the match.

Sadly Pliskova's nerves got the better of her in that final game as she produced one unforced error after another to drop her serve to love to hand Kerber a second Grand Slam title, after an entertaining contest that lasted a little over 2 hours.

Kerber's win was richly deserved as the 28 year old German played excellent percentage tennis, while also showing she is much more than just a counter-puncher, unleashing some deadly forehands whenever presented with a short ball. However, in the end the match was as much Pliskova's to lose as it was Kerber's to win, and an ill-timed bout of nerves proved the undoing of the rookie Czech.

Final Score:

[2] Angelique Kerber d. [10] Karolina Pliskova 6-3, 4-6, 6-4

File Photograph: Porsche Tennis Grand Prix