Angelique Kerber was not about to let the opportunity slip through her grasp at the U.S. Open.
After splitting her first two sets with powerful challenger Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic, Kerber found herself trailing 3-1 in the decisive third set. But instead of succumbing to the pressure, Kerber rallied to win the final set and take the U.S. Open Championship.
Kerber took the title by a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 margin. The champion from Germany had emerged as the No. 1 player in the world when Pliskova defeated Serena Williams in the semifinal. Kerber cemented that ranking with the win over the hard-hitting Pliskova.
Kerber had a remarkable season in the Grand Slam tournaments. She won the Australian Open and was the runner-up at Wimbledon before taking the U.S. Open title before the appreciative fans at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
An emotional Kerber was thrilled with the win, saying how much it meant to win two Grand Slam titles in the same year. "As a kid, I was always dreaming to be the No. 1 player in the world," Kerber told ESPN's Tom Rinaldi in her on-court interview. "This is the year all my dreams have come true."
Novak Djokovic of Serbia has the opportunity to win his second consecutive U.S. Open and his third overall when he takes the court Sunday at Arthur Ashe Stadium to face Switzerland's Stan Wawrinka.
Djokovic, the top seed in the national championship, has won 12 overall Grand Slam titles in his brilliant career. However, his run in this year's U.S. Open has been a strange one.
Djokovic defeated Gael Monfils of France in a four-set, semifinal victory. Prior to that victory, he had completed only one of his previous four matches. Second-round opponent Jiri Vesely withdrew because of an injury, while third-round opponent Mikhail Youzhny retired in the first set.
While Djokovic played a full match and defeated Great Britain's Kyle Edmund in the fourth round, France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga had to retire after the second set.
Wawrinka, the No. 3 seed overall, has had an excellent tournament and played his best tennis in the semifinals. He defeated Japan's Kei Nishikori in four sets and seemed to get stronger in the final two sets of the match while his opponent had worn down in the 82 percent humidity in New York.
Nishikori had pulled off one of the most significant victories on the men's side of the draw when he defeated No. 2 seed Andy Murray in the quarterfinals.
Wawrinka is playing in his first U.S. Open Final, but don't expect the biggest stage to intimidate him. He was victorious in the 2014 Australian Open Final and the 2015 Roland Garros championship in his only two previous Grand Slam final opportunities.
Wawrinka knows that if he is going to compete on equal ground with Djokovic and possibly beat him, he must play his best game.
“The secret is simple: I have to play my best tennis, my best game,” he told Bryan Armen Graham of the Guardian. “He’s the No. 1 player, amazing fighter, amazing player, but I have enough confidence in myself that when I play my best level I can beat him. Hopefully I can bring that Sunday.”
Wawrinka is correct in his analysis of what it will take to beat Djokovic. He will have to play error-free tennis for as long as possible and make Djokovic earn every point.
Djokovic has remarkable reactions and is a sensational defensive player. His ability to return difficult shots often allows him to stay in points and sap his opponent's momentum.
That defensive skill will probably come into play here, even if Wawrinka does play a sensational match. Unless Djokovic starts slowly and loses the first two sets, he should win his second U.S. Open in a row.
Look for Djokovic to win the title in four sets.