Angelique Kerber and Karolina Pliskova went the distance in the 2016 US Open final.
With the first Grand Slam title of her career at the 2016 Australian Open, along with runner-up finishes at Wimbledon and the Summer Olympics, Angelique Kerber was clearly the front-runner for player of the year by the time the US Open rolled around.
Entering the tournament as the second seed, Kerber advanced to the final without dropping a set. And going in to the match, she already achieved another major milestone—with the help of her upcoming opponent.
Karolina Pliskova, the No. 10 seed, reached her first Grand Slam final, continuing her winning ways from the Cincinnati event before the Open. On her way to the championship match, the Czech beat both Venus and Serena Williams, becoming only the fourth player to top both sisters at an event. Her semifinal win over Serena allowed Kerber to take over the No. 1 ranking after the tournament.
Having faced each other seven times over the course of their careers, there were hardly any secrets to be revealed in their games. This was the fourth straight match they had faced each other in a final, with the most recent one coming in Cincinnati a few weeks earlier and won handily by Pliskova. Going three rounds further than she ever had at any major, Pliskova got off to a shaky start with more than a dozen errors in the first set. Relying on her experience and steady baseline game, Kerber was able to secure the opener 6-3.
In the second set, though, Pliskova began to find the range on her powerful groundstrokes and booming serve. Hitting winner after winner, the Czech managed to level the match by taking the set 6-4. Riding that momentum, she got out to a 3-1 lead in the decider, but as she had been showing throughout the year, Kerber rose to the occasion to get the break back. Returning down 4-5, Kerber quickly racked up three match points against Pliskova’s serve, clinching the title when the 10th seed struck a forehand wide for her second Grand Slam victory of the year.
Kerber became the second German woman to hold the top spot in the rankings after Steffi Graf.
In 17 Grand Slam tournaments prior to this one, Pliskova had fallen in the first round seven times.
Kerber became the first woman to win both hard-court majors in a single season since 1997, when Martina Hingis accomplished the feat.