Kerber Set For Wuhan Return, Year-End No.1 On The Line

Kerber Set For Wuhan Return, Year-End No.1 On The Line

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

Angelique Kerber was assured of the No.1 ranking by reaching the US Open semifinal, but the German has been off the tour in the two weeks since officially ascending to the top of the WTA rankings.

“I’m feeling much more comfortable in my skin, how I am, and how to work,” Kerber said in the latest WTA Insider Podcast. “It’s because of the experience; I now know how to deal with the pressure, with things I have to do off-court.”

Kerber got to celebrate her No.1 breakthrough alongside her US Open victory, taking part in a pair of photoshoots with each trophy commemorating her dual achievements. 

“This gives me a lot of confidence to dress up, come out, speaking, working, being how I am! It took a little while to get there, but it was great work getting there.”

Angelique Kerber

The first of two women to qualify for the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global – alongside 22-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams – Kerber kicks off her Asian Swing as the top seed at the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open. The World No.1 has played Wuhan since its inaugural event in 2014, reaching the semiifnals last year.

Kerber leads the field with 54 match wins this year, and will be in search of her fourth title of the season. Taking home three titles thus far, two have been on the game’s biggest stages at the Australian Open and US Open, while the third came at home at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart.

Success at the Grand Slams and consistency elsewhere is what helped Kerber end Serena’s 186 straight weeks at No.1; the first German No.1 since Stefanie Graf – and the first lefty since WTA Finals Tournament Ambassador Monica Seles – Kerber has reached the quarterfinals or better in six of her last seven tournaments, finishing runner-up at Wimbledon, the Western & Southern Open, and the Olympic tennis event (earning no ranking points at the latter).

Now that she’s earned the No.1 ranking, the question becomes how long Kerber can keep it. Williams announced her withdrawal from Wuhan and Beijing, meaning her rival needs to earn 1500 points to assure herself of the Year-End No.1. 

“My motivation is still really high, especially after this title in New York. I will still try to improve my game because I know I could still improve my serve and a few other things in my game. It’s what I plan to do in the next in the next few weeks and in my pre-season for next year. There are still a few things where I know I can be better, and that gives me confidence too, to know I can still play better, more aggressively, or move better.

With a total of 900 points awarded to the winner at Wuhan and another 1,000 next week in Beijing, she could go a long way towards accomplishing that goal before even heading to Singapore – potentially locking down the Year-End No.1 ranking with a good two weeks on Chinese soil.

Angelique Kerber

“Angie won’t stop wanting to get better,” said Torben Beltz, Kerber’s longtime coach who reunited with her just before her rise towards the top of the game last spring. “She doesn’t just want to practice for an hour and that’s it’ she wants to get better, and even have some input in the practice. She wants to get better, hit harder; these are things she wants to do, and we’ll work on that together.”

Kerber would join a select group of 11 women to have finished the year as No.1, and become the 12th to do so. Serena has earned the distinction five times (2002, 2009, 2013-2015), the third-most in WTA history behind Graf at eight (1987-1990, 1993-1996), and Martina Navratilova at seven (1978-1979, 1982-1986). Kerber would be the first woman not named Serena to finish the year No.1 since Victoria Azarenka, who ended her only season as leader of the pack in 2012.

It’s already been a year to remember for Angelique Kerber, but it’s not over yet, and the sky seems to remain the limit for the new No.1.

“Of course, I’m playing the best tennis of my career, but I’m still trying to be better and better,” Kerber said. “That’s what motivates me during my practices and matches. I still hope to play my best tennis over the next few months.”

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All photos courtesy of Getty Images.

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