Defending champion Angelique Kerber had the best season of her career in 2016, yet 2017 was a totally different story for the German. Having won her first two Grand Slam titles last year, Kerber reached the top of the rankings for the first time in her career after winning the US Open as she defeated Karolina Pliskova in three tough sets, recovering from a break down in the final set to do so. This year, the former world number one returns to Flushing Meadows in the midst of a slump and has since dropped to the sixth position in the rankings. Kerber must also at least reach the semifinals out of nowhere to keep herself in the Top 10 after the fortnight in New York.
Notable Results to Date
The then-world number one had a very poor start to the year, falling in the quarterfinals of the Brisbane International and in the opening round of the Sydney International. Her first ever Grand Slam title defense did not end well either; losing in the fourth round to the eventual semifinalist Coco Vandeweghe as she lost the top spot after the rankings to the winner, Serena Williams.
Kerber seemed to have found her best tennis in Dubai, but an injury derailed her chances for a first title of this year as she eventually lost in the semifinals to nemesis Elina Svitolina. A decent North American swing for the German saw her reach the fourth round in Indian Wells where she lost to eventual champion Elena Vesnina before falling in the quarterfinals of the Miami Open.
The two-time Grand Slam champion finally reached her first final of the year, storming to the final round in Monterrey as she defeated a couple of quality opponents along the way. However, she was unable to cap it off with a win as Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova was just too strong on that day, leaving Kerber still in search for a silverware this year.
The clay court season proved to be very disappointing for Kerber, similar to last year. The German amassed a 3-5 win-loss record on the clay courts, falling to lower-ranked oppositions on all occasions but still managed to regain the top ranking after Serena Williams announced her pregnancy and was therefore inactive.
Kerber reached the quarter-finals in Eastbourne where she earned an impressive victory over Kristyna Pliskova in the process, which set her up for the Wimbledon Championships, where she was the defending finalist. There, she had to reach the final to remain as the number one player but her run came to a sudden end in the fourth round as the eventual champion Garbine Muguruza proved too strong, sending Kerber out in three tough sets.
Recent results on hard courts
Angelique Kerber started the US Open Series on a positive note as she fended off the tough challenge of the in-form Donna Vekic in the second round of the Rogers Cup after receiving a bye, triumphing in straight sets despite the inspired performance from the Croatian. However, she was unable to follow up her good win as she was thrashed by the comeback kid in Sloane Stephens, being only able to claim four games in the 58-minute encounter.
Her last tournament before the US Open was the Western and Southern Open. There, she faced a very tough opening round opponent as the in-form Ekaterina Makarova awaited there. The reigning US Open champion looked to be playing some of her best tennis but it was still not enough as the Russian was just too strong, triumphing in that incredible hustle where the German showed some great fighting spirit by saving seven match points but wasting one of her own too.
Best US Open results
Unquestionably, Kerber’s best US Open result came last year when she clinched the title which also sent her to the top of the rankings for the first time in her career. The German was first exposed to the limelight when she had her first career breakthrough in New York back in 2011, defeating Agnieszka Radwanska and Flavia Pennetta (who would go on to win the title in 2015) on her way to the semifinals.
Before her triumph last year, Kerber lost in the third round for two consecutive years, losing to Belinda Bencic and Victoria Azarenka. Claiming the title in 2016 also made the US Open her best performing Grand Slam of her career.
Last year, Kerber came into Flushing Meadows knowing that she has the golden opportunity to take over the top spot from Serena Williams if she were to go further than the legendary American in the tournament. Playing like she has nothing to lose, Kerber stormed into the quarterfinals without losing a set as she was simply peaking in her impressive performances, defeating Petra Kvitova and teen sensation Catherine Bellis along the way. She then outgunned the defending finalist Roberta Vinci in the quarterfinals, sending her closer than ever to yet another Grand Slam title.
Knowing that she is the new world number one after Williams lost in the semifinals, Kerber played with no pressure as she easily defeated surprise semi-finalist Caroline Wozniacki in straight sets to reach the final. There, she faced off against first-time Slam finalist Karolina Pliskova and was in huge danger when she trailed by a break in the deciding set. However, the German managed to recover from the deficit and turned things into her favour, eventually clinching the title with a hard-fought three-set win.
Undoubtedly, Kerber would be looking for similar success in New York this year. If she were to repeat her triumph, it would definitely be tough, but not impossible. The German has to start finding her groove and she has to hope for a favourable draw, especially with the likes of Maria Sharapova and Ekaterina Makarova being unseeded in the field. Kerber also has to find a way to reach the semifinals for a chance to remain in the Top 10 after the fortnight. If the former world number one magically finds her best tennis just in time, a third Grand Slam title could be possible by the slightest of margins.