When the Australian Open reached its climax at the end of January, champion Serena Williams reclaimed the No1 ranking that she had given up last September after three and a half years at the top.
Now, two weeks later and with the tennis roadshow rolling into the desert of Doha and Dubai, Angelique Kerber, who knocked Williams off the top spot with her victory at the US Open, could be back to No1 in another fortnight’s time.
The first tournament, the Qatar Total Open, is a Premier event that would see a win for Kerber garner 470 points, and that would take her to within 255 points of Williams. And with the 23-time Grand Slam champion bypassing both Doha and next week’s upgraded Premier 5 in Dubai, the door is open for Kerber to overtake Williams again—especially as the German has no ranking points to defend from Dubai last year.
Indeed, victory in Dubai alone would seal the deal, as the tournament this year is worth 900 points to the champion.
But two final runs in the desert would be enough, though the draw in Doha proves that there are more hurdles than just Williams to consider. No4 Simona Halep may be missing with injury, but the remaining five from the top seven are ready and waiting, with Agnieszka Radwanska or Caroline Wozniacki among the competitors for a semi-final place.
Talking for the WTA ahead of her renewed No1 campaign, Kerber reflected on a start to 2017 that has not produced the hoped-for results. One match-win in Brisbane and then, as defending champion, a fourth-round loss at the Australian Open saw her lose ground:
“I will do my best in the next few weeks, few months. If you play good tennis, then you have results. This is actually for me the most important thing, to win matches again, getting the confidence back. Then we will see what happens in the next few months.”
After a short break back home, the German arrived early in Doha to adjust from the European winter to the warmer climes of the Gulf. Then it will be a hop-skip-and-jump down the coast to Dubai, where she will face one of the strongest fields ever mustered for the 25th playing of the tournament.
Kerber certainly has something to prove to her many fans in Dubai, with only one win in five appearances—over three-time finalist Svetlana Kuznetsova in 2015.
Two-time Grand Slam champion Kuznetsova and 2012 Dubai champion Radwanska are just two of the opponents who will be bidding for the Dubai trophy, though the former pulled out of Doha with injury.
Also in the mix is WTA Finals winner Dominika Cibulkova, 2016 US Open finalist and 2017 Brisbane champion Karolina Pliskova, French Open champion Garbine Muguruza, and the fast-rising Briton, Johanna Konta.
The action gets underway at the Dubai Duty Free a day earlier than in former years, on 19 February, to accommodate the enhanced 56-woman main draw, and tickets are available online at http://www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com/en/tickets
Information on draws, results and tickets for Doha can be found at http://www.qatartennis.org/tournaments/index/107
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