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Anke Huber Reflects on German Tennis Success at the Australian Open and Predicts Winners

In 1996, Anke Huber played the biggest Grand Slam match of her career: in the final of the Australian Open she faced superstar Monica Seles, but lost in two sets.

Since then, from a German perspective, only Angelique Kerber has made it to the final in Melbourne and won the title in 2016.

Eight years later, the woman from Kiel is still the most illustrious name in German women’s tennis, but hopes of a similar success as back then are low due to the extremely difficult draw.

For Kerber, however, it is currently about other things. “It’s important for Angie to get back on the tour and find her footing. She has nothing to lose and can play completely freely,” explains Huber, who is accompanying the Australian Open this year as a TV expert for Eurosport.

Meanwhile, Alexander Zverev has excellent prospects. The Olympic champion, along with Carlos Alcaraz, is one of defending champion Novak Djokovic’s fiercest competitors, as Huber says in the Eurosport interview.

Anke Huber, what thoughts come to mind when you think of the 1996 Australian Open final against Monica Seles?

Anke Huber: Phew, that was so long ago. (laughs) It was a great experience for me, even though I didn’t really believe I could win the match against a very strong Monica Seles. The Australian Open has always been one of my favorite tournaments, so it was even nicer for me to be in the final in Melbourne.

Since then, only Angelique Kerber has achieved this among German women. After the United Cup success a few days ago, she emphasized that as an unseeded player she needed luck in the draw in Melbourne – exactly the opposite happened.

Huber: That’s right, the draw could of course have gone better. Nevertheless, the United Cup was good preparation, Angie played a lot of matches, both singles and mixed. She looked excellent in the first set in the loss to Iga Swiatek. Overall, Kerber put in a great performance against very strong opponents, something that couldn’t have been expected.

I find it absolutely admirable when a player returns to the professional circuit after such a long break and the birth of a child.

Kerber will play against Danielle Collins in round one, then it could be against Iga Swiatek. Can this brutal constellation be an advantage because Kerber knows that nobody expects victories?

Huber: It won’t be easy for Collins, and if she wins the game she’ll have a really hard time. But for Angie, it’s not about reaching the final at the Australian Open. It’s important for them to get back on the tour and get started. She has nothing to lose and can actually play completely freely. Every match will give her a lot in terms of fitness – and she needs to be in top shape for her game. In any case, I find it absolutely admirable when a player returns to the professional circuit after such a long break and the birth of a child. Furthermore, regardless of the result, I am convinced that she will play well in Melbourne.

Kerber and Zverev present the United Cup trophy in Sydney

Kerber still has the most illustrious name in German women’s tennis – is your comeback also important for the appeal of the sport in Germany?

Huber: Absolutely! Especially in the current phase, when not much is coming along in German women’s tennis. That will take another two or three years. That’s why Angie’s presence is extremely important right now.

With Tatjana Maria, Tamara Korpatsch and Laura Siegemund, Germany only has three other women in the top 100 and are therefore automatically in the main draw in Melbourne. After the draw, who do you think is most likely to win the second week?

Huber: That can’t be answered, but what I can say is: Siegemund is in a good mood and has benefited incredibly from the success at the United Cup. This further increased her self-confidence, which was already high after the double triumph at the WTA Championships at the end of last season. She has good options. I see Korpatsch’s consistency as a positive sign; she has been around position 100 for years. Maria is difficult to assess as she has a few physical problems in the final stages of the 2023 season.

For me there is still no way around Novak Djokovic. You have to mention Carlos Alcaraz and Zverev.

For Alexander Zverev, the Australian Open begins with a German duel against Dominik Koepfer. The first big chunk could wait in the round of 16 with Carlos Alcaraz. If you take into account the good early form, you can look towards the title, right?

Huber: If Zverev is as keen as he was at the United Cup, then the Grand Slam title is always possible. It was impressive to see how sparkling he is early in the season. However, it is not ideal that he got a German duel in round one, in which he is also the heavy favorite. You don’t really like playing that.

Anke Huber has been involved in organizational work at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart since 2005

Fotocredit: Eurosport

But that shouldn’t change the good prospects.

Huber: Exactly, I have a lot of faith in him. If things go normally, the quarter-finals should definitely be possible. From then on, what matters most for men is their form on the day.

Becker: Djokovic is the top favorite in Melbourne despite injury

Let’s take another look into the crystal ball. Who does it in the end?

Huber: For me there is still no way around Novak Djokovic. You have to mention Carlos Alcaraz and Zverev. I give these three the best chances. For me, the women’s title fight focuses on Swiatek and Aryna Sabalenka, plus Elena Rybakina. Classically, the current top 3 in the world.

About Anke Huber

Anke Huber was part of the golden German tennis generation around Steffi Graf and Boris Becker in the 1990s. In 1996, the woman from Bruchsal climbed to fourth place in the world rankings and won a total of 12 individual titles on the tour. The now 49-year-old celebrated her greatest success at Grand Slam level at the Australian Open, where she made it to the final in 1996. Huber ended her career in 2001. She has been the sporting director of the WTA tournament in Stuttgart since 2002, and she is working as a TV expert for Eurosport at the Australian Open 2024.

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2024-01-11 13:03:00
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