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LONDON (AP) — The changes Angelique Kerber has made on the court helped her win a first Wimbledon title. She believes the changes she made off the court will ensure her second coming as a dominant force in the women's game endures.
The 30-year-old German defeated seven-time champion Serena Williams 6-3, 6-3 in Saturday's final to confirm her return to the top of the sport.
After claiming her first Grand Slam titles at the 2016 Australian and U.S opens — as well as losing the Wimbledon final to Williams in between — Kerber was unable to replicate that form in 2017. Having started the year at the top of the rankings, she ended it 21st.
Kerber took the decision to replace her long-time coach Torben Beltz with Wim Fissette. The Belgian has implemented some tactical changes to her game, but has also helped to adjust her wider approach.
"It's not only playing tennis," Kerber said. "There are a few more things I had to do beside the tennis court."
Kerber said she struggled to cope with the pressure of being top of the rankings and the freedom it gave opponents facing her.
However, the experience was a crucial factor in helping her achieve her "dream" of winning Wimbledon.
"Without 2017 I wouldn't be here," Kerber said. "I can say that I am for sure a better tennis player than then."
Kerber reached the Australian Open semifinals to start the season, before backing that up by equaling her career-best performance at the French Open with a run to the quarterfinals.
"She's more confident right now," Fissette said. "I feel she knows herself a bit better — what she needs to play her best tennis, what she needs to feel well throughout the tournament."
On Saturday, it was Kerber's ability to blend her trademark defensive skills with aggression that stunned 23-time Grand Slam champion Williams.
Kerber made just five unforced errors to 24 by Williams, but also produced 11 winners, including two timely forehands on the line to secure a pivotal break in the second set.
With all the focus on Williams, who was playing just her fourth tournament since giving birth in September last year, the improvements Kerber had made while advancing to the final for the loss of just one set had gone largely unnoticed.
"I just feel like she just did a lot of different shots today," Williams said. "It wasn't just one shot. It was lots and lots and lots of different shots. I just know going next time, I'll just be ready for that."
One of those shots was Kerber's serve, which was unexpectedly more effective than Williams' with the German winning a higher percentage of points won on both her first and second deliveries.
Williams is confident her game can go to another level, but getting ready for Kerber may involve more than preparing for what the German showed on Saturday.
"I'm still sure that we haven't seen the best Angie," Fissette said. "I think her serve can still improve and the more she feels success with her offensive game, she will use that as well."
That "next time" Williams mentioned looks as though it may come sooner rather than later.
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