The match was tight, tense and tiring for both players and fans on a humid afternoon. In the third set, Kerber battled back from a 3-1 deficit to break Pliskova’s serve at love in the final game and fall to the ground in triumph.
At 28 years old, Kerber, once a level below the sport’s elite, is suddenly at the top of the game. She beat Serena Williams in this year’s Australian Open final, and then lost to Williams in the Wimbledon final. She also won a silver medal at the Olympic Games in Rio. On Monday, Williams’s streak of 186 consecutive weeks at No. 1 will end and Kerber will take over.
Kerber won her first six matches at the Open without losing a set. She got off to a quick start in the final, breaking Pliskova’s serve in the first game.
Kerber doesn’t have a particularly powerful serve or forehand. But she rarely misses and hits one of the best two-handed backhands in tennis. Her strengths are speed, steadiness and precision. Balls that look out of reach aren’t when Kerber is on the court. Her highlight hustle shot on Saturday came late in the first set, when she chased down a perfect Pliskova drop shot and flicked a forehand winner down the line.
Pliskova responded in the second set with power. She eventually broke Kerber’s serve for the first time with a pretty combination: First she lured Kerber to the net and then she hit a volley lob winner.