To have any chance at finally wresting the No. 1 ranking from Serena Williams, Angelique Kerber needed to get past a major hurdle Sunday night.
She jumped just high enough.
In a battle of lefties, Kerber had just a little more than Petra Kvitova and came away with a 6-3, 7-5 victory on Arthur Ashe Stadium Court that sent her into the the U. S. Open quarterfinals against Roberta Vinci.
This has been a breakout season for Kerber, with a victory over Williams in the Australian Open to win her first Grand Slam. She won at Stuttgart in April. While she hasn’t won since, she has been going deep. Kerber lost to Williams in the final at Wimbledon and lost to Monica Puig in the Olympic final, claiming the silver medal.
There are several scenarios in which Kerber could end up No. 1 on Sept. 12, the day after the Open ends. Through the two weeks of the Open Williams will remain No. 1 for a total of 186 weeks. Kerber could be No. 1 if Williams loses in any round before the final and Kerber reaches the final. Kerber says she doesn’t let the No. 1 ranking become a distraction.
“Actually it’s easy,” she said. “I really love New York. I just go out and play my best tennis. If one day it happens, it will happen, and it will be a new day. I just have to play my best against my opponents.”
The first set went all Kerber’s way, even the little things. Twice she won points on net cord balls that just dropped over on Kvitova’s side. Kerber was already ahead a break in the first set when Kvitova served in the ninth game. At 15-30, Kvitova served an ace, so she thought, but Kerber challenged the ruling and the ball was called out, giving Kerber two break points. She won the second one and the break gave her the first set.
There were no early breaks of serve in the second set and Kvitova seemed to be gaining some traction. But serving the 12th game, Kvitova was up 40-30 when she made a forehand error for deuce. Kerber won a long forehand-to-forehand rally for a match point, and Kvitova handed it to her with a double fault.
The pair had met eight times before with the series at 4-4. Kerber had won the last two meetings, earlier this year on clay on her way to victory at Stuttgart, and in the WTA finals in 2015 on hardcourt.
Kerber continued to compliment her fan support in New York.
“Petra is a great player. I knew I had to play my best tennis,” Kerber said. “I love this tournament. Thank you, guys.”