Earlier today TTI looked back at the 2013 Stuttgart semifinals between Angelique Kerber and Maria Sharapova that went down to the wire. Today the two Porsche brand ambassadors took Centre Court in what once again turned out to be another thrilling encounter – and a revenge for the German lefty.
In front of a rapturous Stuttgart crowd, Angelique Kerber delivered a stunning performance, defeating three-time Porsche Grand Prix Champion Maria Sharapova in three sets. The World No. 2 dominated much of the first set but by the middle of the second set, it felt as though there was a major momentum shift, with the German taking more initiative and fighting tooth and nail for every ball.
“I’m feeling very good and like today, I think I played very good tennis. But we both played very good, top, high-level tennis actually. I was trying to go for it in important moments also in the second set when it was like 5-5, I was trying to go for it.”
Sharapova admitted that rust and recent lack of match-play did factor into her performance — particularly as the match progressed. The Russian had only hit the practice courts a little over a week ago and, in her first match after four weeks, she found herself facing the German lefty, who was on a seven-match win streak on clay — on clay, no less.
“It was certainly a tough match, and my opponent played really well. When I had my opportunities I thought I played a bit of a sloppy game at 4-5, a few return errors, probably due to lack of playing in a while, a little rusty on those moments. The return is something that I could have definitely done better.”
Sharapova expected the home crowd to be firmly behind Kerber, a situation she had experienced many times before. The 27 year old local favourite clearly relished the atmophere and energy of the crowd and fed off of it during the second set.
“It was an amazing feeling. The crowd are supporting us and me. I was a little bit tired actually also in the second set but when I heard the crowd I was fighting until the last point. It was an amazing feeling to play there and the support from all of the great fans here at home. It’s a special moment and also a special tournament for me, the favourite and the best tournament for me.”
Kerber quickly went up 0-30 on Sharapova’s service game at 4-4 in the second set, but the Russian maneuvered her way out of danger zone with a few clutch shots. The German really turned up the heat on Sharapova from there, however, winning nine out of the next ten games in emphatic fashion. Sharapova was disappointed about suffering her first defeat in Stuttgart, but put the result into context of the last few weeks and the remainder of the clay season.
“I didn’t know where my condition or my tennis would be. As I said, I haven’t spent a lot of time on the court and that’s what I’m lacking. I have a lot of time in front of me to get that back and to build a good base and start fresh. I’ve always done very well when I set a good block for myself. I ran out of time a little bit, definitely for Fed Cup and maybe here. But I really wanted to give myself a chance!”
For the German lefty it was the biggest win of her year thus far, but despite her current upswing, she is trying to keep expectations reasonable. Although Fed Cup teammate and close friend Andrea Petkovic played oracle — picking Kerber to win the event (and was understandably gloating about getting the first part of of the prediction right) — the World No. 14 didn’t try to look beyond her next challenge, Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova.
“[Makarova] has played very great tennis and also the last few months, she played very well. She is a lefty, so it’s also a little bit different. You know, I will just go out there and try to have fun like today, try to play good tennis and enjoy every single moment.”
As for Sharapova, it was certainly not the result she hoped for, but it wasn’t all doom and gloom with the two-time French Open winner, who joked her way through to questions about her tumble, someone else getting a Porsche and the inherent need — or lack thereof — to break a racquet.
“Oh, I always end up tumbling at some point in the clay season,” Sharapova laughed. “It’s really nothing new. I’m so used to it…’another one bites the dust!’
“I have a few [Porsches]. I let someone have it…I’m so nice!. I would have loved a fourth one. But it’s alright. There is always next year.
“I’d like to break rackets much more often! It’s in me, I know it, it’s gonna happen one day…I don’t know [if it’s lack of technique], I’m just scared for my sponsor! I think with other players they just have so many rackets and with me, I think they just have twenty for the whole year; I don’t know what they would do, if I just broke one! No, that is not my way of getting anger out.”
Sharapova will head to Madrid and Rome next and physical training and cardio will be playing big roles in her practice block.
For Kerber, Thursday marked the second straight victory over her fellow Porsche ambassador in a tight, entertaining and great showcase for women’s tennis. It’s a rivalry that is flying a little under the radar, but for the past three encounters, it has more than delivered.
Here’s hoping there will be a repeat in the near future.
How did you feel about the Sharapova-Kerber blockbuster? Sound off in the comments!