The signing of Wim Fissette as new coach is a brilliant move. After finally coming good last year, 2017 has been a disappointing time for Angelique Kerber and her fans. Not only did this year see her eventually lose the top spot, but during Serena Williams’ absence she has slipped out of the year end top 20, a noticeable slide, outrageous even.
It’s hard to argue that the timing of this change in coach wasn’t necessary. In fact, it’s a very positive move from a player who surely should have achieved more in the absence of the best female player ever.
Further glory was there for the taking, surely, and with the pressure on for once, Kerber had a predominantly yearlong poor streak. This change, hopefully, will bring that to an end. Wim Fissette is a well-known coach with successful periods coaching some of the top names of the past decade.
Sabine Lisicki’s finest moment came months after commencing work with him, as she reached the Wimbledon final in 2013. He has also been a part of the development and success of Simona Halep, Kim Clijsters, Victoria Azarenka, and more recently Johanna Konta, who had a fine first half to 2017.
Last month, as Konta struggled through injury and the hardcourt season with a multitude of losses, they parted ways. Enter Kerber and a move filled with ambition for what is to come. Winning the Australian Open in 2016 might have been considered a one off.
It was, however, followed by a Wimbledon runner’s up plate and cheque and then her second Grand Slam title a little over a month later at the US Open. It capped a brilliant year, thrust Kerber into the limelight far greater than winning only one Slam can, and made her one to watch (of course, she reached world number one and ended the year in top spot).
Being watched proved to be too much pressure and over the course of 2017 it felt like a slow-motion capitulation. Kerber only months shy of her thirtieth birthday clearly wants to repeat her success of 2016 and prove she is anything but finished.
Appointing Wim Fissette might prove a masterstroke in realising that mission. His record speaks for itself and he will bring a fresh approach to a player more in need of it than most. Over 2017, Kerber lost a substantial number of matches she would never have lost a year earlier.
I can see good things coming from this union. It’s a partnership that sees two proven winners coming together. Kerber needed a fresh perspective, as it seemed her and her coach Torben Beltz had achieved as much as they could together, and 2017 showed things needed shaking up.
It’s good timing and it’s an early statement of what big things she wants to achieve over the coming season. It’s hard to not think that 2017 was a big missed opportunity though. While lots of players excelled, nobody really stole the show, and in the absence of the biggest player some will be disgruntled when pondering that.
Kerber, however, is one of the few who proved she could not only cope with Serena’s explosive game, but she could contain it and find ways to beat her. ‘Explosive’ might be just the word to describe what lies in wait in Australia and beyond. The ‘new chapter’ of which Kerber herself has spoken recently looks like being an attractive prospect.
It will inevitably accompany the return of Serena, the attempts to rise up through the rankings again of Azarenka and Kvitova, and the push for world number one that is now so open for a number of players in the top ten at present.
2018 doesn’t only look highly attractive for the men’s game, the women’s looks as unpredictable as ever, with it very difficult to pick who might come out on top. Serena returning to the game post childbirth and resuming her role as the one to catch may not be quite so simple and there are more possible winners than for some time.
As for Kerber, it’s just possible that she has missed Serena and that her return, along with Fissette in her corner, may just reignite the fire that had clearly gone out this past year. It’s an exciting new phase, and just what Kerber has needed.
Let’s hope she finds her way back up the world rankings. .