Tennis in Stuttgart: Kerber fails again early – sport

There are kicks in tennis that tell you how a player is, how safe she is, how comfortable she is there on the court. With Angelique Kerber, this kick is her forehand, hit longitudinally, flat and fast. The blow is dangerous, the time must be right. So if Kerber pushes over the baseline during a rally, on the field, if she dares to take the hit and hit it – then she is a danger to any opponent.

On Wednesday night, during her first round at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, many such Kerber wings whistled over the net, inaccessible to her opponent Anett Kontaveit from Estonia, who is sixth in the world rankings in after all. Kerber’s shots were very safe for him, very accurate – but only for one sentence. In groups two and three, Kerber also hit some wings worth seeing, but many ended up offside or in the net. In the end, Kerber emerged as a player who does not find her best shot when she needs it most.

She lost 6: 3, 4: 6, 4: 6 and this defeat tells a little story about the big problem that has plagued Kerber for several weeks. She plays well, sometimes very good tennis. It pushes strong opponents to their limits – but it does not win. “In the end, one or two points settled again. Unfortunately not for me,” Kerber said after the match. One of the most painful experiences a tennis player has is to see the finish line in a match, but to stumble regularly in front of it.

Kerber, 34, has now done so in three consecutive games. A week before the tournament in Stuttgart, she played in Kazakhstan in the Billie Jean King Cup, the successor to the Fed Cup. She lost to Yulia Putintseva 6: 3, 3: 6, 2: 6. Against Jelena Rybakina, 19th in the world rankings, she served to win the match in the third round with a 5: 3 advantage – the set ended 5: 7. Of course, close losses are better than hiding from the field 6-1, 6-1. But if you fail too often, you can think about it in the next crucial situation. “In the end you have to win games like that,” Kerber said. You know what it’s like: “You need a match that gives me this turning point, this confidence.”

In 2022, Kerber has won just two games

She will have to find that feeling sooner rather than later, because basically her whole season needs a twist. Stuttgart’s early loss is the next historic moment on Kerber’s difficult road to find somehow this year 2022. Returning to preparation from a coronary heart disease, Germany’s best tennis player lost in the first round of the Australian Open in Doha and in Miami. Although it is still 17th in the world rankings, if only the points earned this year were counted, it would be in 96th place. And in the second half of the year it now has to defend a lot of points to not slip.

Kerber won just two games in 2022, at Indian Wells, where he finally lost to Iga Swiatek. She managed to get a sentence from number one in the world. No other player has done this since. But in the end it was there again: a three-set loss.

Tennis is a constant struggle to find the right balance between attack and security. Kerber has the ability to bring both poles to optimal balance. Then it is defended smoothly, almost flawlessly. Then she attacks when time demands it. In this Zen mode, Kerber has won three Grand Slam tournaments. And Kerber had given this goal before this season, in which he still travels without a coach: that “he wanted to be included in the big tournaments for the big titles”.

In the match against Kontave there were stages in which Kerber showed that their game could reach this level. She defended, she attacked, she countered when she was far behind in the third set. “She played very well,” Kontaveit said. What was missing was consistency. Especially in crucial situations, Kerber made slight mistakes. She gave up the first service game in the third set with a double error – in the end she lost this game.

Early farewell: The match against Anett Kontaveit (left) is the only one for Angelique Kerber in Stuttgart.

(Photo: Roger Bürke / Eibner / Imago)

When she sat in front of reporters after the match, all in black, Kerber looked devastated. “Of course it’s sad that I can not continue to play here right now. It was such an important tournament for me,” she said. She won in Stuttgart in 2015 and 2016, the fastest indoor conditions suit her style of play better than the slow outdoor clay courts to be played in the coming weeks.

Kerber then said he felt good on the field and that he was physically fit. Basically, the only thing missing is the feeling of victory again in a close match.

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