MASON, Ohio (AP) — This could be a big week for Angelique Kerber at the Western & Southern Open, where she has a chance to become the WTA’s No. 1 player.
All she has to do is win the Cincinnati tournament where her best finish is runner-up to Li Na in 2012.
“What can I say,” said the German, currently ranked second behind Serena Williams. “There’s a long way to go. I’m not thinking about that. Somebody told me about that (Monday), but I’m trying not to listen.
“Everyone dreams about being No. 1. It would be amazing. I would give everything to reach that goal.”
Kerber could become the first woman other than Williams to be ranked No. 1 since Victoria Azarenka in February 2013. Her road to the top slot got easier when Williams, who has been No. 1 for 183 consecutive weeks and 306 overall, withdrew from the tournament on Monday with a shoulder injury. Earning the No. 1 ranking would extend what already has been a magical year for Kerber, starting with the Australian Open championship, then reaching the Wimbledon final, where she lost to Williams, and winning the silver medal at the Rio Olympics.
“That was a special week,” Kerber said of the Olympics. “I had a lot of experiences. The atmosphere was different than a normal tournament. I had a great week. I won a medal. That was my goal.”
The second-seeded Kerber arrived in Cincinnati on Monday and practiced on Tuesday. After a first-round bye, she is scheduled to play the winner of a match between two qualifiers, Ukraine’s Kateryna Bondarenko and France’s Kristina Mladenovic, on Wednesday. Kerber said she will be ready despite a challenging Olympic schedule.
“I had a lot of matches, day-by-day,” she said. “I’m feeling a little bit tired. It’s a little bit different here than in Rio, but I feel good. I just need one or two days to get used to the court. I’m feeling good. I’ll be ready to go tomorrow.”
David Goffin was the only seeded player in early action as first-round play continued Tuesday. The 11th-seeded Belgian advanced with a 7-5, 6-3 win over qualifier Nikoloz Basilashvili. Also reaching the men’s draw second round was qualifier Mikhail Youzhny of Russia with a 6-1, 6-3 win over wild-card American Taylor Fritz, while Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria advanced on the women’s side with a 6-1, 6-1 win over Russian Daria Kasatkina.