Two-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber was the standout player in the 2016 season on the WTA Tour. The 29-year-old has found it extremely difficult to handle the pressure that comes with becoming the world number one. Her ascension to the world number one ranking in the latter part of 2016 was fully deserved. Kerber won her first two Grand Slam singles titles at the Australian Open and US Open. She also finished as the runner-up to Serena Williams at Wimbledon. However, in 2017, Kerber has struggled to kick on and add to her Grand Slam tally.
This midseason review will look at Kerber's season so far, and the German will be looking to kick on in the second half of the season.
The two-time Grand Slam champion has had a dismal season for her standards. Kerber has a 24-15 win-loss record, and she has reached a solitary final in 2017 in Monterrey losing to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
The world number three reached the quarterfinals at her first event in 2017 at Brisbane. She reached her first semifinal of the year at the Premier level event in Dubai. She recorded straight sets victories over Mona Barthel, Monica Puig, and Ana Konjuh before losing to Elina Svitolina for the second time this year. The two-time Grand Slam winner advanced to the quarterfinals at the Premier Mandatory event in Miami. She lost to Venus Williams in the quarterfinals, and Pavlyuchenkova defeated Kerber in the final in Monterrey for the second time. Kerber reached the quarterfinals in Eastbourne, defeating the likes of Kristyna Pliskova and Lara Arruabarrena before falling to Johanna Konta.
The former world number one lost to Daria Kasatkina in the second round in Sydney and Doha. The German was defending a Grand Slam title for the first time in her career at the Australian Open. She dispatched the likes of Lesia Tsurenko, Carina Witthoeft, and Kristyna Pliskova but the latter was in emphatic fashion. However, her title defense came to a halt losing to Coco Vandeweghe in the fourth round. She lost her world number one ranking to Serena Williams, who went on to win an Open Era record, 23rd Grand Slam singles title.
The two-time Grand Slam champion's clay court season was a disaster. Kerber lost to Kristina Mladenovic in Stuttgart as she was aiming to win three successive titles but it was not meant to be. The German only won two clay court matches and both came in Madrid before she retired against Eugenie Bouchard. More misery quickly followed as she lost to Anett Kontaveit in the first round in Rome, and she suffered her second consecutive first round loss at the French Open. This time, she lost to former top ten player Ekaterina Makarova in straight sets. Despite reaching the fourth round at Wimbledon losing to eventual champion Garbine Muguruza in the battle of Grand Slam champions and the last two finalists at SW19. Kerber lost her world number one ranking as she had to reach the final to have any chance of retaining the top spot. Simona Halep failed to capitalize and take it for the third tournament in a row. Karolina Pliskova ascended to the top spot despite losing in the second round.
There has not been plenty for the two-time Grand Slam champion to smile about in 2017 but she reached a final in Monterrey. She advanced to the fourth round at the Australian Open and Wimbledon respectively. Kerber also reached the quarterfinals in Brisbane, Miami, and Eastbourne. The German also advanced to the semifinals in Dubai.
The lefty lost in the second round in Sydney and Doha. Kerber also lost her first matches in Stuttgart and Rome. The German's dismal clay court season culminated with another first round exit at the French Open. Despite being the world number one and losing in the first round, she held onto her ranking. Halep and Pliskova were both one set away from wrestling away the top spot from Kerber but failed to do so.
Midseason Grade: C
The two-time Grand Slam champion could find herself outside of the top ten by the end of 2017 if she fails to defend the points that she accumulated last year, and find the form that took her to the world number one ranking. Kerber still has to defend the US Open title, and she reached the final in Cincinnati losing to her successor Karolina Pliskova. Moreover, the German lost to Dominika Cibulkova at the WTA Finals last year, and she will be hoping to go to Singapore once more.
This second part of the season will be crucial for Kerber as she had a phenomenal 2016 campaign. Hard courts work well for the German's game, and she will be pleased to be back playing on the hard courts in North America.
With the world number one ranking no longer next to Kerber's name it may relieve some pressure from the US Open champion's shoulders, who could be a danger heading into the North American hard court swing.