Angelique Kerber yesterday credited German great Steffi Graf with giving her the belief that she can win big matches after upsetting Victoria Azarenka to reach the Australian Open’s semi-finals.
The seventh seed stunned the two-time champion 6-3, 7-5 to make the last four of a Grand Slam for only the second time after the US Open in 2012.
The 28-year-old Kerber had a stellar 2015, winning four tournaments, second only to Serena Williams’ five, and she said fellow German Graf’s words of wisdom had been instrumental.
“Steffi is a champion. She taught me to believe in myself. She was and still is my idol,” Kerber said of Graf, who won 22 Grand Slam titles—an Open-era record that Serena Williams is gunning to match in Melbourne.
“She won everything, she’s a great person, as well.
“I was able to practice with her for a few days just before Indian Wells last year. But she taught me actually that I’m on a good way and to try to believe in myself.
“I was trying to do it in the last few months.
“I was going out there today with a lot of confidence and trying to believe really in myself and just going for my shots, trying to play good tennis.
“I’m happy about my game, how I’m playing today.”
Kerber is the first German into the last four at the Australian Open since Anke Huber in 1998.
Germany’s six-time Grand Slam winner Boris Becker, who won the Australian Open in 1991 and 1996, praised Kerber for her fighting spirit.
“Angie is a fighter. She has managed to get her nerves under control and to believe in herself,” the 48-year-old Becker, who coaches Novak Djokovic, told SID, an AFP subsidiary.
Graf, now married to Andre Agassi, was one of the greatest players of all time. She won 107 singles titles, including the Australian Open in 1988, 1989, 1990 and 1994, before retiring in 1999.
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