It’s been a banner year for Angelique Kerber. The world’s No. 1 has become one of the elite tennis players, stepping up from the crowd.
And without Serena Williams on the circuit, there’s not many out there, who can contend with the 29 year-old.
However, this Supergirl has one weakness and her Kryptonite is all over Roland Garros: The clay surface.
“Everybody knows it’s not my favorite surface, but, yeah, we have to play on clay. I try my best. Last year as well, these were not the best weeks for me. I mean, it was my best year, but when I played tournaments on clay, I was not performing so well. This year it’s the same,” she said at media day in Roland Garros. “It can be better. I try my best to make the best preparations I can to be ready for the first round, and then we will see how far I can go… But first of all, I am just aiming to go step by step and try to get in love a little bit with the clay.”
It’s been pretty bad. Last year she had a first-round exit compared to winning in Melbourne and in Queens, while going to the finals in Wimbledon. So frankly, being able to play past tomorrow will obviously be a big victory for her in Paris.
But to make matters worse, Kerber was knocked out by a qualifier in the first round at her last match in Rome on May 17, so there’s obviously some trepidation playing Russian Ekaterina Makarova tomorrow morning.
“The pressure is there and I can’t make it disappear but I will focus on what I am doing and on my tennis,” Kerber said. “You do have to learn to deal with the number. There’s a lot more attention focused on you and you need to go about your daily routine differently. But the excitement is still there, even if things haven’t gone my way.”
By her own admission, Kerber doesn’t move well on clay and she can’t play the same power game, which vaulted her to the top on the harder surfaces.
In all fairness though, Kerber did have some success at Roland Garros. She made the Quarterfinals in 2012, followed by fourth round exits in 2013 and 2014 with a third rounder in 2015.
But the shock of last year hasn’t worn off and with failure in the warmup tournament, she just isn’t comfortable.
“I need matches. And I need matches where I can start to play and feel my tennis,” she says. “I also need winning matches. I need to go out and try to find my game, to fight, to try to move well because moving on clay is really difficult for me. During practice, I am working on moving around the court and being ready for more rallies.”
But practice is different than the actual game. So even with the French Open just starting, it’s going to be interesting early.
Such is life for a No. 1 seed.