Not The Birthday Angelique Kerber Expected

Angelique Kerber (photo: Vince Caligiuri/Tennis Australia)

WASHINGTON, February 3, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Imagine you’re Angelique Kerber, the former World No. 1 from Germany, and you’ve just landed in Melbourne, Australia, after a long flight. You’ve had great preparation and you have great expectations for 2021. Then, soon after, you learn that you have to spend your 14-day mandatory quarantine period in a hard lockdown with no time outside to practice because someone on your flight has tested positive for COVID-19 and you’re considered a risk because you’ve had close contact.

Surprisingly, Kerber, who recently celebrated her 33rd birthday after arriving in Melbourne, seemed at peace and took it all in stride.

“When they told me, you have to stay in the hard lockdown, at first I was a little bit shocked,” Kerber, the 2016 Australian Open women’s champion, recalled on Tuesday. “Like, okay, is that really real? I was not expecting this, for sure. But then, really like a minutes after that, I was like, okay, this is now the situation. I can also understand the other side. Let’s just do the best I can do because now I’m here, I cannot move out again.

“You know, I was trying to stay calm and find the peace out of the situation. I think also all the experience and also how, yeah, I. Am right now gives me actually the calm to really stay the 14 days in the room and did my exercises, doing few stuffs, things that I never do.

“I don’t know, every day I was FaceTime with all my friends. I was still trying to adjust to the time to Australia because I was living, I think the first eight days like in German time still.

“But I was trying really to stay calm. I think when you get older, you are really, like, having the peace inside of you.”

Kerber met with the media in advance of her opening match in the Grampians Trophy, a 28-draw WTA 500-series event added the week before the Australian Open to benefit those who were on strict quarantine. The first question she was asked was: “What was it like celebrating your birthday in quarantine?” Her response: “It was really special (smiling).

“No, it was a little bit strange, of course. But I think I will never forget this birthday. I mean, I got a cake, and I was trying to dressing up a little bit and celebrate, yeah, in my hotel room my birthday.”

When Kerber was asked it was fair to say this Australian Open represented the most psychologically difficult major that she’s ever had to prepare for, the World No. 25 said: “You know, I mean, of course it was not the plan, to stay in the hard lockdown. I know that I had a great preparation. I worked a lot at home with my team the last few weeks, actually two months.

“I understand, of course, that’s actually, yeah, the progress, like to stay in the hard lockdown because of all the things what happened.

“I was trying more to being calm, trying to take the best out of the situation. I mean, I think Australia is doing such a great job right now. When you go outside, they have no cases. They suffer for so many months here. I think on one side it was the best thing to do. …

“But, you know, I’m happy that I have a good team around me, that we have a lot of fun on court and try to also enjoy every single day because right now you cannot really plan too much ahead.”

On Wednesday, the eighth-seeded Kerber played her first-round match in the Grampians Trophy against 59th-ranked Katerina Siniakova of Czech Republic and won 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 to advance to the second round against 30th-ranked Ons Jabeur of Tunisia. Kerber has an opportunity to play as many as five matches before the start of next week’s Australian Open if she progresses all the way to the final.

“Finding the rhythm, I think when I play a few matches, it will come,” said Kerber. “I have so many experience[s] already to know how it is. I think also what’s really important is the mental thing right now, especially for me that I’m not like, ‘Okay, I went through the two weeks of hard lockdown, but it’s okay.’ I’m fine with that, and now I’m looking ahead. I’m not looking back. I’m just trying to, okay, I’m okay, I practice good before, and try to take, yeah, the best out of that.”

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