The arrival of summer heralds the tennis season. A time to enjoy the aces, to admire the volleys and to celebrate the brilliance, the sportsmanship, the competitors and the champions. But it is also an opportunity to recognise the sheer determination and perseverance that it takes to succeed in the sport. This year’s Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber is well versed in the unwavering motivation that it takes to reach the top of the game.
“In 2011, I was losing every single tournament in the first round and I was thinking maybe it’s better to stop and change my life,” the German player remembers. “But I told myself no, that it’s important to just enjoy tennis again. My goal was really being the best player I can be for myself.”
Her drive to persist and triumph came into fruition eight years after she made her professional debut. Entering the US Open in 2011, ranked 92nd in the world, Kerber advanced via a number of surprise wins to her first Grand Slam semi-final. And, in an unanticipated twist, she finished the year as number 32.
“I was playing tennis again like when I was a kid growing up in Germany: with a lot of patience, with fun and joy,” she recalls of that breakthrough, and the renewed hunger and vigour for the sport that it gave her. “From that moment, I believed in myself and in my game.”
The year 2011 might have been when she found her form and hit her stride, but it was 2016 that proved to be career-defining for Kerber. Reaching her first ever Grand Slam final, in the Australian Open, Kerber defeated defending champion Serena Williams and claimed her first Grand Slam title. Her attitude remains humble and level-headed – the mark of a true great.
“I knew that it was my first chance at a Grand Slam, and you never know if you will get a second one. I was trying to take the energy from the crowd, and it happened in the end,” she says.
Reaching the gold-medal match at the Rio Olympics earned Kerber a silver for Germany in 2016. And later that year she gained enough points to unseat Williams as world number one and won her second Grand Slam title, in the US Open.
“I couldn’t believe that I really won. I was dreaming about this moment. In 2016, winning my two Grand Slams, being the number-one player in the world, I will never forget it. I think I enjoyed it much more at this age than 10 years earlier,” she says of how the patience and hard work paid off for her.
But it wasn’t only on the courts that Kerber was making waves. That year was significant for the athlete in another way too, as it was when the luxury Swiss watchmaker Rolex enlisted her to become one of its inspiring Testimonees. “It means a lot to be part of the Rolex family because everybody has achieved something really big and they are all fighting for it,” she says. With the discipline and prowess that she shows in her sport, it’s undeniable that Kerber embodies the fighting spirit of the Rolex woman.
“It’s important to keep working hard and keep going my own way,” the athlete reflects. Her courage and resolute self-belief form an attitude that is inspirational to people across the world – aspiring athletes and otherwise. “Everybody has up and downs,” she says. “They learn from the toughest moments and they never give up.”
Watch Kerber recall how she overcame challenges to win two Grand Slams and become world number one, below.
Discover the stories of Rolex’s diverse, but equally exceptional, Testimonees here: www.rolex.com