STUTTGART, Germany - Going into the 2011 season there were no Germans in the Top 30, and no German player had reached a Grand Slam quarterfinal in almost five years - oh how far German tennis has come since then...
Andrea Emerges In Australia
Pairing relentless power and rock solid consistency, the charismatic Andrea Petkovic started a German revolution on the WTA in 2011, going all the way to the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, the first German to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal since Anna-Lena Groenefeld at the French Open in 2006. And that wasn't the end of her rise by any means, as she also made the quarters of the French and US Opens, the only player all year to make the final eight at three of the four Slams. Having begun the year at No.32 in the world, she would go as high as No.9 in October, settling for No.10 at year's end.
"There are people who believe in themselves since they were born, and others who need experience," Petkovic said in Australia. "I'm the second type."
Julia Sizzles At Home
It wasn't long before the classy Julia Goerges followed Petkovic towards the top. At the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, Germany's only stop on the WTA calendar, Goerges brought out her very best, overpowering Caroline Wozniacki with some huge serves and groundstrokes in the final, eventually collecting her first Premier title. She would go 15-3 in the European clay court season, a stretch that helped propel her all the way to No.16 at one point, settling for No.21 by year's end (she began the year down at No.40).
"I had goosebumps at match point," Goerges said of the Stuttgart final. "It was an unbelievable feeling playing the final with so many people watching."
Sabine Breaks Through In Britain
Sabine Lisicki had a heartbreaking, ankle injury-marred 2010 season, and during the Indian Wells fortnight in 2011 dipped as low as No.218. But the determined German came back even stronger, winning Birmingham and extending her grass court winning streak to 11 matches in a row in making it to the semifinals of Wimbledon - you had to go all the way back to Steffi Graf's run to the Wimbledon final in 1999 to find a German reaching a Grand Slam semifinal. Lisicki would win another title in Dallas and make her Top 20 debut going into the US Open, finishing the year at a sparkling No.15 in the world.
"It has been an incredible three months," Lisicki said from Dallas. "I've picked up my game and am playing so well. I'm just happy to be on the court again."
Angelique Takes A Bite Out Of The Big Apple
Going into the US Open, there was Petkovic at No.11, Lisicki at No.18 and Goerges at No.21, with no other Germans even close to them - the next one was all the way down at No.89. Just a few rungs further down at No.92 was the inspired Angelique Kerber, who put together one of the most unlikely runs in Grand Slam history, making it all the way to the semifinals in Flushing Meadows - even coming close to the final, pushing Sam Stosur to three sets in that one. Having been outside the Top 100 just a few weeks earlier, her run propelled her from No.92 to No.34, finishing the year an unexpected No.32.
"My goal was to get into the second or third round," Kerber beamed in New York. "Every match has been so difficult. It's just an unbelievable feeling."
Four Top 20 Germans: First Time Since 1988
On February 20, 2012, Kerber moved into the Top 20, marking the first time since July 17, 1988 that four Germans were ranked in that elite at the same time (back then it was Graf, Claudia Kohde-Kilsch, Sylvia Hanika and Bettina Bunge). And all four of them have converged into the No.11-16 range this week (Petkovic at No.11, Lisicki at No.13, Kerber at No.14 and Goerges No.16).
There are a few more names to keep in mind, too. Mona Barthel began the year at No.69 and has moved up to No.35 since then, and seems destined for the Top 20 - she is at No.17 in the Race to the WTA Championships. German No.6 Kristina Barrois was a quarterfinalist in Stuttgart last year. And Groenefeld, who had been the last German in the Top 20 before the current quartet, is now focusing only on doubles - and has already reached one Premier final this year, at Paris [Indoors] (alongside Croatia's Petra Martic).
The 35th annual Porsche Tennis Grand Prix begins in Stuttgart on Monday.
Kerber and Goerges will be doing live chats from Stuttgart on Wednesday afternoon... click here for more information and to participate!