Angelique Kerber: What next for Serena Williams' conqueror?

    Champ Kerber sparks fan frenzy in Germany
    Champ Kerber sparks fan frenzy in Germany


      Champ Kerber sparks fan frenzy in Germany


    Champ Kerber sparks fan frenzy in Germany 04:17

    Story highlights

    • Kerber aims to continue Australian success
    • First German grand slam winner since 1999
    • Left-hander has inspired her Fed Cup teammate

    (CNN)Angelique Kerber barely had time to soak up her Australian Open victory.

    A week after upsetting Serena Williams in the final and bravely taking a dip in Melbourne's polluted Yarra River, the 28-year-old commendably fulfilled her commitment to play in the Fed Cup women's team event for Germany against Switzerland.
      Such is the nature of the tennis tour -- for 11 months it simply doesn't stop.
      And no sooner had Kerber opened her grand slam account than the questions arose: Was the left-hander's success Down Under a stroke of luck -- after all the Bremen native was a point away from exiting in the first round at Melbourne Park to Misaki Doi -- or does she have what it takes to land more majors?
      As tennis super agent Max Eisenbud put it after one of his clients, bubbly Chinese star Li Na, claimed her second grand slam crown in 2014, "winning that second one puts you in a different category."
      Not many would dispute the words of Eisenbud, who also represents the wealthiest female athlete in the world, Maria Sharapova.
      Players who win a grand slam for the first time often find themselves, in the short term, in one of two predicaments: Overwhelmed by the newfound fame and becoming the hunted rather than the hunter; or so buoyed that they remain or even exceed the lofty level they've just attained. Li, for one, struggled mightily in 2011 after winning the French Open.
      Pam Shriver and Brad Gilbert, former top-five players and now analysts for ESPN, are convinced that Kerber can achieve more success -- and sooner rather than later.
      Their views are echoed by Germany's Fed Cup captain Barbara Rittner, although she exercised caution.
      "I think Angie is hungry for more," Rittner told CNN's Open Court show. "She's not slowing down. She will try to do this again but nobody knows how she's reacting to the media attention.
      "Everything is changing a little bit but because she is so down to earth, normal people around her, great coach, I think we will hear quite some more about her."

      What about Serena?

      Whether the new world No. 2 wins another major in the foreseeable future also depends on the form of her rivals, who include Williams and Sharapova, a five-time grand slam winner.
      Some will say that Williams is sure to capture at least one grand slam this year, pointing to the fact that en route to the Australian Open final she didn't come close to conceding a set.
      Yet others will dwell on the American's now seemingly increased vulnerability in crunch clashes at the slams. Her Melbourne loss came after she was upset by Roberta Vinci in September's U.S. Open semifinals, a result that ended the 34-year-old's bid to become the first player to achieve the calendar year grand slam since Kerber's idol Steffi Graf in 1988.
      Heinz Gunthardt, Graf's former coach, a television analyst and Switzerland's Fed Cup captain, told Open Court that Williams was still very much the player to beat.
      He added that if Williams wasn't in the picture, "10 to 15 girls have the ability to win grand slams."
      Having done the almost impossible by overcoming Williams in a grand slam final -- the world No. 1 had won eight straight finals at majors -- Kerber certainly won't be discounted from that large group.
      A possible Kerber-Williams rematch failed to materialize in Dubai this week as both pulled out, citing injury and illness, respectively.
      "Now I have a lot of confidence," Kerber told Open Court. "I beat Serena and I played great tennis, so for sure it gives me a lot of confidence for the next tournaments, for everything that's coming.
      "I will just try to enjoy every moment."
      Kerber's coach Torben Beltz didn't reply to CNN's interview requests but spoke in Melbourne of a pivotal off-season training block in Poland, where the player resides.
      It was there -- in Puszczykowo, where Kerber's grandfather established a tennis academy for her -- that a tactical rejig took place.
      Kerber likely could have stayed in the top 15 or even top 10 and thus enjoyed the high life by relying on her fine defense, but made the decision to reshape her game slightly, attempting to become more aggressive from the baseline.
      The move paid dividends. Apart from getting the better of Williams in the biggest upset of the tournament, Kerber also engineered the second biggest upset when she eliminated another of the pre-tournament favorites, Victoria Azarenka, in the quarterfinals.

      On the offensive

      "If you just play defense against good players it's not enough," Beltz said. "You have to be aggressive. She has to try to win the match and not (have) the opponent lose it."
      In making the significant alteration to her game, Kerber has usurped rivals with similar styles: Caroline Wozniacki and Jelena Jankovic. Both are former top-ranked players and grand slam finalists who have yet to win a major.
      Wozniacki, in particular, might draw inspiration from Kerber's achievement. The Dane is 25 and still has time to progress, whereas Jankovic turns 31 at the end of February and has contested one grand slam quarterfinal in the last five years.
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      Someone like Andrea Petkovic may benefit, too.
      Having almost quit the game last year because of a lack of motivation, the 2014 French Open semifinalist has already been boosted by her good friend's triumph.
      "I've been there during the hard times that she had to go through and all the moments when she thought she maybe couldn't achieve what she has achieved so it's been very emotional and very exciting for me," Petkovic told Open Court, perhaps referring to 2011 when Fed Cup teammate Kerber at one stage lost 12 of 13 first-round WTA matches.
      "I was so happy to see her win ... you're that much closer than when you see Serena Williams win or Maria Sharapova, which is also very inspiring, but my motivation grew to work harder on myself and try to become a better player myself."
      However, they were unable to immediately capitalize on that Melbourne momentum as Germany lost 3-2 to a Belinda Bencic-inspired Switzerland, which earned a semifinal against the Czech Republic in April.
      Kerber, who won one of her two singles rubbers in Leipzig, will long cherish the memories of her Australian breakthrough and the path to becoming a major champion.
      "We were sitting at home and we realized that I won my first grand slam," she says, recounting a rare gathering with her family. "We got through my career when I was beginning ... so many things in the last years -- it was just the best feeling I ever had."