Kerber says belief key to win

Angelique Kerber (Gallo Images)
Angelique Kerber (Gallo Images)

Melbourne - Angelique Kerber said on Saturday the key to beating Serena Williams and winning her first Grand Slam title was simply staying relaxed and believing in herself - using Steffi Graf as inspiration.

The composed German seventh seed shocked the world number one 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 to win the Australian Open and become the first German Grand Slam champion since Graf at the 1999 French Open.

Kerber credits the 22-time major winner with giving her the belief to put together the best period of her career, after she practised with the retired great early last year.

And now she has returned the favour by keeping Williams stalled on 21 Grand Slam titles, one short of Graf's Open-era record.

"I think I helped Steffi right now," Kerber beamed.

"I mean, yeah, Steffi is a champion. She won 22 Grand Slams. That's my first one. I'm really happy about my game I played, about the two weeks. The hard work pays off.

"I think it's so good also for Germany, for German tennis. After Steffi, now somebody (else) won a Grand Slam. It's just amazing."

En route to the final Kerber beat two-time champion Victoria Azarenka to signal she meant business, and she made the most of an error-strewn performance by Williams.

But she said staying calm and taking it point by point was key to toppling both Azarenka and the world number one.

"I was trying to stay relaxed until the last point (against Williams)," she said.

"The first set I played very well. The second set she was serving much better. The third set every game was really close."

She added: "Here... I was trying to believe much more in myself.

- 'My phone is exploding' -

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

"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.

"It sounds crazy, but I can say I'm a Grand Slam champion now."

Born in Germany to Polish parents, Kerber has been a model of consistency throughout the tournament with her win set to propel her to number two in the world behind Williams, from her current six.

Germany's sports stars, including footballers Bastian Schweinsteiger and Lukas Podolski and Formula One driver Nico Rosberg, have sent messages of congratulations and Kerber said her phone had been running hot.

"I mean, I think my phone is exploding right now. I don't know how many messages I get. It's like amazing," she said.

One of those messages was from Graf, but she had not been able to read it.

"My phone, it's charging, so I don't know. I was just able to call my mom, my parents, my grandparents, and that's it. So I have no idea."

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