Zhengzhou Open, China
 Angelique Kerber (GER) vs.  Alison Riske (USA)
Kerber won the first three matches they played; however, Riske has now won the last two times they played. Interestingly, Kerber had never dropped a set to the American in her three victories. Also, in the two matches that Kerber lost, she won the first set. Why has the American been able to defeat the former number one in their last two encounters?
Riske has gotten fitter and has more confidence in her ability to hang in the rallies; her ferocious backhand hits winners down the line, frequently catching Kerber off guard; and finally, the American is competing to the very end, regardless of the score. Today’s match was a testament to the fighting spirit of the American. I can’t say if she was always a fighter, because I have never really seen much of her matches. Although I saw a few this season, I had no previous reference point. What I did see was her fearless competitive spirit. She also stays positive after making an unforced error or a poor shot selection.
Riske had the lead in the first set and could have wrapped up the match in straight sets; yet, one thing we know about Kerber, she will also fight. They traded breaks and Kerber got the third break at 5-5 to give her the lead, which she consolidated to win the first set. The second set was also a set where they traded breaks again, but this time it was Riske who got the final break to win the set. The third set was almost a mirror image of the first set, until Kerber stepped up to the line to serve for the match.
There is a psychological component to everything we do in life because our emotions and thoughts influence every decision we make. Memories of past experiences generate thoughts, which creates an emotional response, which affects how we respond physically. Did her last match against Riske influence the outcome of this match? Yes! Kerber was aware that Riske would not be easily defeated and often her frustration was evident. Negative emotions drain us and take away from our focus. Instead of focusing on what she did well to win the first set, Kerber got lost in what she did wrong to lose the third set.
Riske may have had the same thoughts after she lost the lead in the third set; yet, she handled her disappointment by choosing to be more positive. Her positive attitude to fight for every point was the variable that swung the match in her favor. Ultimately, her ability to mentally adapt quickly to her environment gave her the 5-7, 6-4, 7-6(6) victory over Kerber.
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