Saturday afternoon entertainment in Miami gave us an intriguing battle between Angie Kerber and Victoria Azarenka. Despite a good start from the German it was quite comfortable for Vika in the end who extended her winning run to 9-1 over the German so what went wrong?
On her day we know Angie can beat anyone, she is a three time major champion but has not hit anywhere near those heights for a few years now. Since May 2018 the German has only made it past the final eight of a WTA 1000 or Grand Slam twice in 25 tournaments winning at Wimbledon and runner-up at Indian Wells.
The opening five games were good, there was an element of control from Kerber who really got to grips behind her forehand and moved the Belarusian well around the court but the problems came for the German.
The control and attacks from Kerber were good but there was a good build up in the points in the early games and usually ended with a forehand down the line.
A big problem was the neutral rallies, they began to go the way of Azarenka and that bite in the forehand of Angie going cross court was missing.
This is the forehand placement of Angie Kerber from the first 12-14 games of the match where she led 4-1 but went onto trail 5-7 0-2.
On the left we have the speed of the forehands and you can see around 65-70% of the green forehands (those over 74mph) went down the line from Kerber. The German is at her best when she has time and can open up the court and these forehands down the line are her on the front-foot and able to make the difference.
So why isn’t it the same cross court? Is there a lack of confidence, usually cross court you have a bigger target to go for but it is coming through the court much slower there is no conviction behind the shot. Is it not trusted?
The problem that Angie ran into against Vika was that the Belarusian had her backhand waiting and was equally devastating whether she went cross court or down the line and was willing to leave the court slightly opening she would get these chances to pounce once she put Angie under some pressure.
To find her best tennis again it does need to be equal whether she is looking to go cross court or down the line. Down the line looks good, I love playing a backhand close to the line through the court but just playing that way isn’t going to win big matches.
That plays into the fact that Angie has only made it to the final eight in 2 of her last 25 major events and hasn’t recorded a top 10 win in almost two years since June 2019. I really like Angie, I love what she has brought to the court over the years, the intensity and the hustle has been exceptional and it would be great to see her back towards the top once more!