With Serena Williams in her sights again, Angelique Kerber confident of finding rhythm in Dubai

She may be short on match practice, but German can leapfrog American rival once again at top of WTA rankings if she wins Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships this week, writes Ahmed Rizvi.
Germany's Angelique Kerber has had a rough start to 2017, but she has seen signs of a revival on the practice courts. Saeed Khan / AFP
Germany's Angelique Kerber has had a rough start to 2017, but she has seen signs of a revival on the practice courts. Saeed Khan / AFP

DUBAI // Struggling to find her rhythm in the opening seven weeks of the season, Angelique Kerber is confident she is only a match or two away from rediscovering it and hopes it will happen here this week in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

With 900 points on offer for the winner, Kerber (7,115 points) can reclaim the No 1 ranking from Serena Williams (7,780) if she goes all the way here. But given her patchy form thus far this season, not many would be optimistic about her chances.

Defeated in the fourth round of the Australian Open by CoCo Vandeweghe, Kerber has won only one of her four matches in the other three tournaments. Starting the season as the No 1-ranked player in the world, the German got her campaign off with a rusty three-set win over Ashleigh Barty at Brisbane International before getting bundled out by Elina Svitolina. In Sydney and Doha, she fell at the first hurdle, losing to promising Russian teenager Daria Kasatkina on both occasions.

“I was not feeling good last week in Doha,” said Kerber, who has been given a bye to the second round along with the other top eight seeds. “I was not able to play my best because my body was not 100 per cent, but on the practice courts here, I am playing good.

“I am really practising good and I just have to bring that good feeling from the practice courts into the matches. I think it is just one or two matches that can change it because I am really feeling good.”

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The No 1 ranking, then, will not really be at the top of Kerber’s list for this week in Dubai, a tournament where she has won only one of her five main draw matches – against Svetlana Kuznetsova in the 2015 second round. She also lost in the first round of qualifying in 2008.

“For me, it is more important to play my tennis and to find my rhythm again,” said Kerber, 29. “That is what counts for me. I will give my best to win again a lot of matches and then we will see if I can get back to No 1.

“It is not, maybe, the best start I was wishing for, but no big drama I think. It’s not a big deal. I am still doing the same things and it is important for me to just follow what I would like to do, try to improve my tennis and get used to everything what has happened now.

“I still have the same team around me and I know how to get back I think – it’s just like going out there and playing matches, and winning matches again.”

Starting 2016 at No 10 in the rankings, a massive 6,355 points behind No 1 Williams, Kerber had an incredible season. She defeated Williams in the Australian Open final and then reached the final at Wimbledon and the Rio Olympics before winning her second major title at the US Open to march ahead of Williams on the ranking table. Later, she reached the final of the WTA Finals as well.

Kerber, however, said she was not mentally ready for life as No 1 yet and the extra attention that comes with it.

“I have yet to get used to it because, of course, it is a new challenge and a new experience as well for me, doing much more things around and making my day schedule also a little bit different than, say, a few months ago.”

arizvi@thenational.ae

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Published: February 19, 2017 04:00 AM

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