Angelique Kerber is making no promises, but hopes to lead a new era of women’s grand slam champions after stopping Serena Williams in her tracks.
While the humble German insists it’s too premature to write Williams off, Kerber believes her stunning Australian Open final triumph over the rampant world No.1 can serve as inspiration to other would-be challengers.
“Against Serena, it’s not so easy to win,” Kerber said in the afterglow of her 6-4 3-6 6-4 breakthrough win at Melbourne park.
“I was feeling this as well. You must play really your best tennis to beat her.
“I played really good. I knew that I must go for it. I think it’s still tough to beat Serena.
“But of course I think that a lot of new and good players are coming. They will challenge Serena. They will challenge me. They will challenge all the good players.
“Let’s see what’s happen in the next few months or few years.”
Williams has dominated tennis across three generations, seeing off a dozen different rivals in grand slam finals over a remarkable 16-year stretch.
Now Kerber looms as the 34-year-old’s biggest threat.
The 28-year-old will rise to second in the rankings on Monday, a world away from the dark days when Kerber could barely win a match and pondered her place in the sport.
“The toughest moment was 2011 when I was like losing 11 times in the first round,” Kerber said.
Four years on and Kerber is the first German grand slam champion since the great Steffi Graf in 1999 after a “crazy” ride to Open glory.
The seventh seed saved a match point in her tournament opener against Misaki Doi and toppled two-time champion Victoria Azarenka for the first time in the quarter-finals before blotting Williams’ perfect six-from-six record in finals in Melbourne.
“It’s like amazing,” Kerber said before celebrating her watershed win with a dip in Melbourne’s Yarra River on Sunday, ala two-time men’s champion Jim Courier in the 1990s.
“It’s so good also for Germany, for the German tennis. After Steffi, now somebody won a grand slam.
“Right now I’m not thinking about the next tournaments, the next challenges. I’m just trying to stay here and enjoy everything, take in all the experiences.”
Kerber’s victory also preserved her idol Graf’s open-era record of 22 grand slam singles titles, with Williams still one shy after sweeping to the first three majors last year.
“I helped Steffi right now,” Kerber said.
“I mean 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 really tried to improve my game, improve also my mentality, to stay more relaxed.
“That it works everything here in these two weeks is just amazing.
“I want more.”
Even Williams, not overly accustomed to runner-up speeches, hailed Kerber an inspiration in a magnanimous acceptance of her defeat.
“She had an attitude that I think a lot of people can learn from: just to always stay positive and to never give up,” the American said.
“I was really inspired by that.
“If I couldn’t win, I’m happy she did.”