Kerber looking to regain top spot in Dubai

Dubai: Current world number two Angelique Kerber will line up for the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships next week knowing that taking the title will see her regain her top ranking.The 29-year-old German dethroned the seemingly invincible Serena Williams...

Kerber looking to regain top spot in Dubai

Dubai: Current world number two Angelique Kerber will line up for the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships next week knowing that taking the title will see her regain her top ranking.

The 29-year-old German dethroned the seemingly invincible Serena Williams on September 12 last year to become the oldest woman and the first German since Steffi Graf to take the number one spot. But her loss in Round 4 at the Australian Open and Williams’ victory there saw her surrender the ranking after 20 weeks at the top.

Kerber currently trails the younger Williams by 665 points and with Dubai being a Premier 5 event this year there are 900 ranking points on the line. Kerber is scheduled to also compete in the Qatar Open this week and can return to number one if she makes the finals of both Doha and Dubai, or if she wins in Dubai.

But she will face one of the strongest fields ever when she bids to add the Dubai crown to her two Grand Slam trophies when play commences on February 19. With a field featuring seven of the top ten players in the world, Kerber’s run to the title will by no means be an easy one, and she will be under more pressure than most.

After ending Serena’s record-tying run (with Steffi Graf) of 186 weeks at the top of the rankings, Kerber knows that she is in everyone’s sights and after a somewhat lacklustre start to the season, losing in the quarter-finals in Brisbane, and the first round in Sydney before falling to CoCo Vandeweghe in Melbourne, she will need to regain the fantastic form of 2016 which saw her win the Australian and US Opens and a silver medal at the Rio Olympics if she is to lift the prestigious Dubai crown.

Even her opponents were full of praise when she claimed the top ranking, including arch-rival Agnieszka Radwanska. “Angelique is definitely playing unbelievable tennis,” said the Polish top-tenner.

“She really showed that she can play great tennis on every surface. Very solid tennis. She definitely deserves to be number one.”

But rather than fearing what lies ahead, Kerber is relishing the challenge, saying before the Australian Open, “I’m actually more excited. I know that I have the pressure on my shoulders but I am really looking forward to take this challenge. It’s a new situation for me. Every player would like to beat me now. So I will just try to go out and not think about this.”

She certainly has something to prove to her many fans in Dubai. Success has eluded her during her previous five Dubai appearances, with just one win that came over former three-time finalist Svetlana Kuznetsova in 2015.

Two-time Grand Slam Champion and tour veteran Kuznetsova and 2012 Dubai champion Radwanska will be just two of the opponents that will be bidding for one of the most coveted trophies on the WTA Tour. The line-up also includes WTA Finals winner Dominika Cibulkova, 2016 US Open finalist and 2017 Brisbane champion Karolina Pliskova, reigning French Open champion Garbine Muguruza and the most exciting woman player to emerge from Britain in a generation, Johanna Konta.

“Not only will Angelique Kerber face a challenge from nearly every member of the world’s top 10, there are many others who could also offer extremely tough competition,” said said Colm McLoughlin, executive vice-chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free, the tournament owners and organisers.

“Several players outside of the top 10 have been in great form as the 2017 season gets under way, including CoCo Vandeweghe, who had a brilliant run at the Australian Open, and ended Kerber’s attempt to defend her title.

“We are thrilled that so many of the world’s top women players are returning to compete for the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships title,” said tournament director Salah Tahlak

“Competition has always been fierce, and the battle for the title this year will be tougher than ever. The tournament has produced many surprises over the years and it is impossible to predict who will emerge as the winner, but one guarantee is that tennis fans will be able to enjoy a fantastic week of entertainment.

“And with such a galaxy of top stars in action, tennis fans will be able to see many of their favourites for free on the outside courts.”

Record crowds are expected again to flock to the stadium to witness the spectacular matches, as well as enjoying the packed social programme which will see Dubai celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Championships in style. As always, the Tennis Village will be buzzing all fortnight with entertainment, music, autograph signings, the big screens showing the action live and a host of other events and activities including Kids’ Days, Ladies’ Night, and plenty of competitions for fans to win those sought after finals tickets.

Action will get under way first with the WTA event on February 19, followed by the ATP World tour event from February 27. The ATP line-up includes world number one Andy Murray; Australian Open champion and seven-time Dubai winner Roger Federer; Dubai defending champion, winner of three Grand Slams and world number three Stan Wawrinka; two-time Dubai finalist Tomas Berdych and the entertaining world number nine, Gael Monfils.

The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free, and held under the patronage of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

Tickets for every day of the event including the finals are still available from the Box Office at the Dubai Tennis Stadium, Garhoud, which remains open from 9 am to 9 pm daily. Tickets are also available online through //www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com/en/tickets.

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