Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Kerber Foreshadowing

Women's tennis has a new Slam champ. As you've probably heard, Angelique Kerber from Germany downed Serena Williams in three nerve-racking sets to win the 2016 Australian Open. It's a good thing I'm neither a fan of Williams nor Kerber. Otherwise, that sixth game in the final set and those crazy angles they played would've made me gasp for air from the intensity of it all.

As someone who's been waiting for the emergence of Serena's competitor in an era where she's pretty much unchallenged, I of course rooted for "Angie" to win.

And win she finally did, as Williams volleyed just a little past the baseline on her last chance to keep the match alive.

Game. Set. Match. Kerber.

But who's this Angelique Kerber exactly?

Before winning this Slam, she was a consistent Top 10, Top 20 player in the WTA. There was no record of her winning Slams. No Number 1 spot ever reached. No Year-End Championship titles. No Olympic medals. She was a player good enough to hang around in the Top 10 spot and its proximity. Bonus, she sometimes go to the second week of Slams.

Until yesterday, that is, where she made a brilliant run at the Australian Open and get her first Slam under her belt.

Is everyone surprised that Kerber won one of the prestigious Opens? Kerber and her previous track records? I know I am. Particularly because I actually have a personal story regarding Kerber...

It's only recently that I started following tennis in mid 2013. As a newcomer to the sport, of course I knew very little of the players and their achievements. I've known Venus as one of the greats, Sharapova and her on-court/off-court achievements, Azarenka as World No. 1... I've heard their names before, from the news I read or heard in passing as a regular member of society. Heck, I've even heard about someone named Clijsters when I casually read the paper in the toilet. That's the level of knowledge I had as a non-tennis fan.

Surprisingly, though, one of the names that I have also heard, read, or seen somewhere prior to becoming a tennis fan, was of this Kerber person: Angelique Kerber.

So when I became a tennis fan in 2013 and started to educate and familiarize myself with the greats that the sport has, I found out so-and-so had 4 Slams (which I mistakenly thought wasn't much of an accomplishment), and that girl had zero Slams, but was famous because she had been No. 1, and that other one had a massive collection of 22 Slams, et cetera, et cetera.

And since Kerber's name sounded familiar to my newbie tennis ears, I wondered if she was also famous or some kind of hotshot.

So I ran a Wikipedia check on her to see if she was a big deal. And the result was... disappointing. No Slams, no Number 1, no Year-End Championships, no Olympics. Career high was so-so.

"So why does her name sound familiar to me? Where did I hear it from?

That thought was dismissed.

Fast forward to 2016, Angelique Kerber, whose name was even heard by a non-tennis fan that was myself the way the greats of any sports usually dropped by in our ears uninvited, eventually won something huge. A Slam. A respectable feat. An accomplishment not every top players ever tasted.

Now that Angie has actually done it, the whole thing with me recognizing her name when she had yet to accomplish something does feel funny, like a foreshadowing of her future achievement.

I guess it wasn't for no reason that I heard her name randomly. It was meant to be. Or was it?

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