Angelique Kerber claimed a confidence-boasting maiden grass court crown by defeating Karolina Pliskova on a third set tiebreak in a fascinating final at Birmingham.
And Kerber, twice a runner-up at Eastbourne over the past three seasons, had a fight on her hands to dismiss Czech Republic’s big-serving Pliskova 6-7(5) 6-3 7-6(4) in 139 minutes.
Victorious Kerber said: “It was an amazing match, and perfect for a final and has given me great confidence in my preparation for Wimbledon.”
Pliskova dropped her serve in the opening game and staved off four set points before breaking back in the 10th game to help push the set into a tiebreak.
The Czech ace broke Kerber’s serve on the seventh and 10th points, fluffing the first set point but not the second to move ahead.
Kerber again lost her serve at the start of the set but swiftly turned the table to bounce back, forcing longer rallies to grind down her opponent and dominate with a 31-minute set.
Pliskova has delivered 320 aces this term, including 11 at Birmingham, with her fighting abilities saving five break points in the third set but dropped her serve in the third game so was chasing the game.
And she broke Kerber to make it 5-5 courtesy of a fortunate mis-hit shot that resulted in an unintentional lob, and once more a tiebreak was required. The German was fuming and resorted to throwing an unused ball away in a rare fit of anger.
Kerber broke her opponent three times in the tiebreak and from 5-4 served out the next two points without problem.
The stats told the story of the contest, flat counter-hitting by Kerber produced 34 winners and 14 unforced errors while heavy-hitting 6’1” Pliskova hit over 50 winners with her downfall 42 unforced errors.
But 23-year-old Pliskova remains positive before moving onto Eastbourne and explained: “I was happy with the way I played because I did everything I could, but Angelique moves so well.”
Kerber walked away with a healthy winner’s cheque but more importantly with the prized Maud Watson trophy, which was presented to the inaugural Wimbledon champion in 1884. If Kerber can keep her nerve then the prizes at both Devonshire Park and SW19 the following week are within her grasp.