Angelique Kerber

Tennis Pro Angelique Kerber On Why Everyone Wants To Beat Her

There's no plan B for the world No. 1

Across various industries and worlds, there's a goal that's easily translatable: to excel. Great achievement—won through dedicated work and a determination to improve—has been associated with Rolex for generations, making the brand's collaboration with ambassadors from a range of fields feel right. In an ongoing partnership with Rolex, we explore the journeys of these exceptional women.

The world loves a prodigy. But when the pinnacle of a career is reached after years of grinding and hyper-focused work, the wait makes success even sweeter.


One of tennis' highest-ranked players, Angelique Kerber, was the oldest female to claim the top ranking for the first time (in 2016 at age 28). When she talks about her sport now, there's none of the giggly, giddy energy that often bursts out from teenage wunderkinds. She's a woman who understands the enormity of what she's achieved, but isn't overwhelmed by it. Kerber knows who she is and the power she packs.

Significantly, at her core is a pure love of the game. "I've always enjoyed playing tennis. That's never changed," she told ELLE. And while her success might have arrived late compared to other athletes, she never doubted it for a second: "I never had a plan B."

On getting coached by her parents:

"I started playing when I was three years old. My parents played, so I grew up on the tennis courts. Back then, it was about having fun with other kids, moving around, and just enjoying the sport. Eventually, I began playing a little more intensely and telling them, 'I like the sport and would like to learn it better.' I won against my mom when I was 12 or 13. My father still plays really well. I don't know if I've ever won against him, to be honest."

On deciding to pursue tennis:

"I was also a swimmer growing up, and there was a moment when I was around 15 years old when I had to choose: Am I going to play tennis or swim? I decided on tennis because of my parents. And I was playing well. I beat a lot of good players that were older than me, and I wanted to go pro. Deciding to devote myself to tennis was tough, but I knew I could still swim. Maybe not professionally, but I could still go the pool and swim for fitness. I wasn't giving it up."

On struggling with loneliness:

"It's not only about playing tennis. You have to deal with other things. It wasn't easy for me. It was hard to travel every single week and not be able to see my friends. At one point I traveled around the world—that was my dream and I really enjoyed it. But there were also times I couldn't go to a friend's birthday party or wedding. I'd be sitting alone in my hotel room and thinking, 'Okay, we can Skype for five minutes, but that's it.' Tennis is an individual sport, and you have to find a team you can trust. Now, I have a few friends who are tennis players, and we can all go to a nice dinner together sometimes. It's nice to have them, but in the end, you're alone."

"I follow my feelings when I'm on court."


On her love of the game:

"When you're on Centre Court and hear all the people cheering for you, the tough work pays off. When you're standing there holding the trophy you know that all the things you've done, staying alone in hotels, that was the way to get there. It all pays off. That's the best feeling.

"I follow my feelings when I'm on court. I have a plan and tactics, which I speak with my coach about before the match. The opponents are always different, so at the end I'm trying to play how my instinct is telling me."

On coming to terms with a no. 1 ranking:

"It's always been my dream: winning Grand Slams and being the number one player in the world. It was always my goal. Now that it's happened, it's not so easy to get used to it, to wake up every morning and tell myself, 'Okay, you really [became] the number one player in the world.' It takes time, but it's all positive emotions. I'm also proud of my team and everyone who's always believed in me."

On being a part of the Rolex family:

"It's an honour because Rolex has always meant traditional elegance and doing the best and that's something that's important to me as well—tennis is a traditional sport, and I'm always doing my best."

On staying motivated at the top:

"[After I ranked number one,] everybody wanted to beat me, so there's pressure. They have nothing to lose and they know they'll have to play the best tennis to have a chance against me. But I know I can still improve my game, my mentality, and all the small things. It's a new challenge."

On remaining true to herself:

"It's important to stay grounded, to not think, 'Okay, now because I've reached this goal, I'm a better person,' or that if you lose, you're a worse person. Being ranked number one [in 2016] is how I dreamed it would be. The only thing that's a little bit different than I expected are all the things I have to do off-court. When you're a kid playing, you're not thinking you'll have to travel so much. You never think about the media pressure when you're 10 years old.

"Of course, you have to change a little bit. It's easy to stay humble because my team and my parents treat me the same. I'm always telling them, 'Please, treat me like I am not a tennis person. Treat me like me, not nicely because I'm winning.'"

"Now everybody wants to beat me, so there's pressure. They have nothing to lose. I'm motivated to stay as long as possible on top."

On accomplishments on and off the court:

"For me, winning my two Grand Slams was the biggest achievement because I was pushing myself to the limits. And the Olympics were a big deal for me. I always watched them when I was young. Getting a medal for Germany was really special.

"Off the court, I like motivating young kids to play tennis. It's a really traditional sport. In Germany, after Steffi Graf and Boris Becker, there was a long time when young people didn't play tennis. Football was and still is the biggest sport. I'm trying to show the young children to pick up a racket, believe in their dreams, and never give up."

From: Elle
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