Angelique Kerber on a dream trip to Wimbledon

For Angelique Kerber and her equally courageous semifinal opponent Ashleigh Barty, Wimbledon is the eternal place of longing. But only one of them is allowed to continue dreaming.
Ashleigh Barty was 15 when she won the junior women’s title at Wimbledon ten years ago. Such early victories are lovely, for many the first great event of a career, but there is no guarantee that it will turn out to be a large one.
In more than fifty years of the professional era, there are only two winners in the All England Club’s list of winners, Martina Hingis and Amelie Mauresmo, who won not only with the little ones but later also with the big ones. A few more among the colleagues: Bjorn Borg, Pat Cash, Stefan Edberg and Roger Federer, who together later achieved a remarkable 16 titles, half of them for the Swiss champion.
But back to Ashleigh Barty. Winning this title ten years ago was undoubtedly extraordinary, she once said, but it was nothing more than a foretaste. The Australian example shows well enough that there is no straight path to a goal and that it depends on how to overcome obstacles.
Just like three years after her victory at Wimbledon, when she felt lonely and overwhelmed on the tennis tour and, with a good dose of courage, decided to end the tennis chapter for the time being. Instead, she played cricket for the women’s squad of the Brisbane Heat for two years and found the fun of the sport again. After that, she felt healthy enough to return to the tennis court and immediately won nine of her first eleven games.
“Never lose faith in me.”
That was undoubtedly a brave decision by Ash Barty at the time, believes Angelique Kerber, who will play against the Australian in the semifinals this Thursday from 2.30 p.m. In the difficult times, could she have finally imagined putting the bat down for a while to sort herself out and renew her feelings?
Well, she says, not specifically. “Last year I didn’t play for months either, but thinking about stopping until I felt better, these thoughts were never there. Of course, it wasn’t an easy time, but I never lost faith in myself, in my team. Now I’m in the semifinals and the journey isn’t over yet.”
And she’s been on the road for a long time. A year after Barty won the junior women’s division, Angelique Kerber played in the big semifinals for the first time, but her friend Agnieszka Radwanska from Poland won. She remembers her good games in 2012, how proud she was of them, and the thought: Okay, this is the beginning of the journey. It was her second semifinal in a Grand Slam tournament after the US Open the year before.
But that was all a long time ago. Now it’s about the next attempt and the great prospect of landing in the final of the championships for the third time. “So much has happened in recent years that I’m just looking forward to it and am incredibly grateful that I got the chance again,” she says. Things and experiences that you had to do without for a while are gaining in importance. That’s the way it is in life.
Wimbledon was always Barty’s dream.
Ashleigh Barty is just as content. She says that winning Wimbledon was always her dream, but it took a long time before she dared to talk about this dream aloud and for everyone to hear. “But that’s absolutely what I want and what I work for.” She also knows what it feels like to win a Grand Slam title since the premiere two years ago at the Stade Roland Garros.
A few weeks ago, she was doing less well in Paris when she had to retire in the second round due to a hip injury, and it was questionable whether she would be fit again by Wimbledon. She has not played on grass in any of the pre-season tournaments but has trained at the All England Club, and so far, she seems to have been fine. She only gave up a set in the first round, and especially when she appeared in the game of 16 against the French Open winner Barbora Krejcikova, she was both combative and convincing.
Barty and Kerber agree that no conclusions can be drawn about the fifth from the course of the four games they have played together so far; the last is already three years back. Since then, the cards have been reshuffled several times. It’s all about the here and now and the thoughts that are associated with it. Barty says the prospect of these semifinals is neither terrifying nor overwhelming but exciting.
Exciting because of the challenge of playing against someone who is relaxed on the course and who knows how to win the tournament. Both of them will not lack courage; Angelique Kerber is pretty sure of that. “One should always have courage in life and not be guided by fear. I guess that’s actually what I’ve learned in recent years, that fear is the enemy of each of us.” The best prerequisites for a gripping game and an encounter at eye level.

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