DOHA — Angelique Kerber enters the Middle East swing knowing that final appearances in Doha and Dubai would give her back the world No1 ranking she conceded to Serena Williams last month but the German insists she is solely focused on regaining her confidence rather than the top spot.
Kerber, seeded No1 in Doha, is back in action for the first time since her Australian Open fourth round defeat to American Coco Vandeweghe three weeks ago and is hoping she can recapture her bulldozing form of last season here on the hard courts of the Qatari capital, before heading to Dubai next week.
The 29-year-old arrived to Doha last Thursday to give herself a chance to acclimatise to the conditions, although the sunny weather she expected is nowhere to be seen with a light drizzle interrupting qualifying action yesterday and rain forecasted for the next few days.
Asked if she had her eyes on reclaiming the No1 ranking, Kerber told reporters in Doha on Sunday: “For me it’s really important to play good tennis, to try to improving my tennis. This is actually my goal always.
“Of course, I will do my best in the next few weeks, few months. If you play good tennis, I mean, 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’s happen in the next few months.”
Rounding off the top five seeds in Doha are US Open runner-up Karolina Pliskova, WTA Finals champion Dominika Cibulkova, five-time Doha semi-finalist Agnieszka Radwanska, and French Open title holder Garbine Muguruza.
Kerber, like her fellow top-four seeds, has a bye in the first round and awaits the winner of the clash between talented Russian teen Daria Kasatkina and Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu.
The 28th-ranked Kasatkina upset Kerber in Sydney last month and could prove a tricky opener for the German world No2 should she get past Begu.
“I think it was not bad to get a bigger rest, to get ready for these two tournaments (Doha and Dubai),” said Kerber, who is drawn to potentially face seventh-seeded Timea Bacsinszky in the quarter-finals and possibly No4 seed Radwanska in the semis.
“I’m feeling good. Of course, the first rounds are always a little bit tougher because you have to get used to the tournament feeling again, to the match things.
“But, yeah, I think that I’m ready. I really enjoy my tennis right now on the practice court. So, yeah, for me the tournament can start already.”
Radwanska will also be playing her first match since her shock Australian Open second round exit at the hands of the 34-year-old Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. The Polish world No6 opens her Doha campaign against either ex-world No1 Caroline Wozniacki or Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens.
She spent the last couple of weeks training hard at home in Krakow in preparation for the Gulf tournaments.
“Of course, it depends how you do in Melbourne. I wish I didn’t have that gap, but…” said Radwanska, referring to the lengthy time she had between tournaments due to her early loss at the Australian Open.
“Two weeks in our season is quite a long time that you can do something. Of course, I had it, so I used it well, I guess. I hope. Well, we’ll see how it goes here.”
Doha quick hits (not including qualifiers)
Singles wildcards: Cagla Buyukakcay (TUR), Fatma Al-Nabhani (OMA)
Youngest singles player: Daria Kasatkina, 19-years-old (May 7, 1997)
Oldest singles player: Roberta Vinci, 33-years-old (February 18, 1983)
Singles withdrawals: World No10 Johanna Konta (change of schedule), world No8 Svetlana Kuznetsova (abdominal injury), defending champion Carla Suárez Navarro (right shoulder)
Main draw debutantes: Irina-Camelia Begu (ROU), Kiki Bertens (NED), Monica Puig (PUR), Laura Siegemund (GER)
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