Tennis

Kerber focused on revival, not top ranking

Kerber's priority is to regain full fitness and get back to her best

Angelique Kerber's main priority is to revive her flagging fortunes rather than reclaiming the world No. 1 ranking from Serena Williams at the Dubai Tennis Championships this week.

The German two-time Grand Slam champion took over top spot last September when she won the US Open.

However, she promptly lost the honour in Melbourne last month as Williams won the Australian Open, reclaiming her long-held No. 1 ranking in the process.

Now Kerber, who lost to American Coco Vandeweghe in the fourth round at the Australian Open, is determined to prove she can still pose a threat on a regular basis.

"I was not feeling good last week in Doha," the German said yesterday morning (Singapore time) as she prepared to start in Dubai in the second round as the top seed.

"My body was not at 100 per cent - but I'm practising well."

Kerber lost her opening match in rain-hit Qatar last week, going down in three sets to promising Russian teenager Daria Kasatkina.

"I must bring that good feeling from the practice courts to the matches. It is just one or two matches that can change it because I am really feeling good."

Kerber will be playing in the Dubai main draw for a fifth time, but has never been past the third round.

Should her game click again, she would have the chance to return to the top ranking by winning the title, with Williams skipping the Middle East legs of the WTA Tour.

But, with a 4-4 record so far this season, it would likely take something special this week at the Aviation Club.

Kerber is working to keep the ranking permutations out of her mind.

"It is more important to play my tennis and to find my rhythm again," she said.

"That is what counts for me. I will give of my best to win again a lot of matches and then we will see if I can get back to No. 1."

Kerber heads a Dubai field which includes US Open finalist and No. 3 Czech Karolina Pliskova, who won the Qatar title last Saturday, WTA Tour Finals winner Dominika Cibulkova, and French Open champion Garbine Muguruza.

However, the event has lost double Grand Slam winner Svetlana Kuznetsova, Canada's Eugenie Bouchard and holder Sara Errani to injury.

SIX IN A ROW FOR NISHIKORI

In first-round results yesterday morning, Australian 12th seed Samantha Stosur beat Zhang Kailin 6-3, 6-3, Tunisian qualifier Ons Jabeur surprised 14th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia 7-6 (8/6), 2-6, 6-4, while French 15th seed Caroline Garcia downed Swede Johanna Larsson 6-3, 6-3.

Meanwhile, Japanese top seed Kei Nishikori lost a sixth successive final yesterday when he was defeated by Ukraine's Alexandr Dolgopolov 7-6 (7/4), 6-4 in the Buenos Aires final.

The world No. 5 had already lost in the Brisbane final in January to Grigor Dimitrov which followed 2016 defeats in tournament deciders in Basel (against Marin Cilic), Toronto (Novak Djokovic), Barcelona (Rafael Nadal) and Miami (Djokovic).

"I'm happy to be in the final. Unfortunately, I lost today, but Alex played better than me," said Nishikori.

"I didn't play badly so, hopefully, I can keep this level going." - AFP

tennisAngelique Kerberserena williams