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Kerber wins US Open

New York — Early in what would become a tight test of a US Open final, Angelique Kerber sprinted forward to somehow reach a drop shot and scoop a down-the-line winner that landed in a corner of the court.

The Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd roared, and Kerber celebrated by raising her right hand and wagging her index finger in the air, as if to remind opponent Karolina Pliskova — and everyone else — “I’m No. 1!”

German Angelique Kerber reacts after finishing off Czech Karolina Pliskova in their US Open final match. (AP / Manila Bulletin)

German Angelique Kerber reacts after finishing off Czech Karolina Pliskova in their US Open final match.
(AP / Manila Bulletin)

Yes, she is. And a two-time Grand Slam champion, too.

Kerber won her first US Open title and the second major trophy of an out-of-nowhere breakthrough season, taking five of the last six games to beat a fading Pliskova, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, on Saturday.

“It means a lot to me. When I was a kid, I was always dreaming to one day be the No. 1 player in the world, to win Grand Slams,” said the 28-year-old Kerber, who will move up one spot from No. 2 and replace Serena Williams atop the WTA rankings on Monday. “I mean, all the dreams came true this year.”

Never a Grand Slam finalist before 2016, Kerber beat Williams for the Australian Open title in January, then was the runner-up to her at Wimbledon in July. Adding the championship at Flushing Meadows was further proof that all of the changes Kerber has made are paying off.

The better fitness, via extra time in the gym and longer, more intense practice sessions; an improved serve and a new willingness to attack during points, rather than mainly counter-punching, via instruction from coach Torben Beltz; a more positive attitude on court, via help from a mental coach.

“Of course, now everybody will try to beat me and have nothing to lose,” Kerber said. “I will try to take this challenge.”

On Saturday, the No. 2-seeded Kerber trailed by a break at 3-1 in the third set before coming back against the 10th-seeded Pliskova, who hadn’t been past the third round at a major until this tournament.

“It didn’t look good,” Beltz said about the deficit. “But I think that’s also her strength. Because … if she sees she still has a chance, she’s grabbing it and she goes for it.”