Even the chancellor's political foes acknowledged she was the big winner of the first German vote since the euro crisis began in 2010, which her into the role of Europe's dominant leader.
However, despite leading her conservatives to their best result since 1990, with 41.5% of votes putting them five seats short of the first absolute majority in parliament in over half a century, Mrs Merkel had little time to celebrate.
She said: "We are, of course, open for talks and I have already had initial contact with the SPD (Social Democratic Party) chairman."
She added that she did not rule out talks with other potential coalition partners.
Her SPD arch-rivals were plainly preparing to play hardball in any talks on repeating the "grand coalition" led by Mrs Merkel from 2005-2009, which worked well in her first term but cost the SPD millions of leftist votes.
"It will be an extremely long road," said Ralf Stegner, head of the left wing of the SPD which has reservations about being junior partners again to Mrs Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and her Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) allies.
The 150-year-old SPD may have finished a poor second with their second-worst post-war result but they know Mrs Merkel has to come knocking after her current centre-right coalition partners, the Free Democrats (FDP), failed to get back into parliament.
In German politics, where only one post-war chancellor has won an absolute majority - Conservative patriarch Konrad Adenauer, in 1957 - complex coalition-building is par for the course and few politicians build consensus better than Mrs Merkel.
Her calm leadership through the euro crisis has reinforced her status as "Mutti" (mother) of the nation, but she counted on the SPD and Greens' support on all the eurozone bailout votes.
Polls show a majority of German voters would like another "grand coalition", as do many of Germany's partners in the euro currency area, who expect the SPD to soften Mrs Merkel's austerity-focused approach to struggling eurozone states like Greece.
The euro inched up and German Government bond futures rose yesterday as investors anticipated continuity in Berlin's cautious approach to the crisis.
However, continuity may come at a high price for Mrs Merkel, in terms of cabinet posts and policies.
In the campaign, the SPD argued for a legal minimum wage and higher taxes on the rich. It may demand the finance ministry, pushing out respected 71-year-old incumbent Wolfgang Schaeuble, or insist on key posts like the foreign or labour ministries.
An SPD insider said: "There will be no quick formation of a government. The party will try to drive up the price."
After an election that gave a slim numerical majority to the leftist opposition, the SPD and Greens may even feel pressure to review a historical taboo against allying with the Left Party, heirs to the communists who built the Berlin Wall and still inspire distrust beyond their steady 8.5% of votes.
If Merkel and SPD chairman Sigmar Gabriel fail to agree on a coalition, and there is no love lost between them since the SPD chairman leaked a confidential text message from Mrs Merkel to the media, then she could switch her focus to the Greens.
For now, Mrs Merkel is one of few European leaders to survive the debt crisis which has seen 19 of her peers lose their jobs.