An­gelique Ker­ber needs to find her­self, and it’s not go­ing to be in Paris,

Toronto Star - - SPORTS -

PARIS— A French Open al­ready miss­ing Ser­ena Wil­liams and Maria Shara­pova is now with­out No. 1-ranked An­gelique Ker­ber, too, lend­ing even more of a feel­ing that the women’s cham­pi­onship is any­one’s to win.

Ker­ber has not been play­ing at all like one of the best at what she does, and on Sun­day she be­came the first wo­man seeded No. 1 to lose in the French Open’s first round in the pro­fes­sional era.

Ker­ber, who re­placed Wil­liams atop the WTA rank­ings this month, was gone from Roland Gar­ros by lunchtime on Day 1, los­ing 6-2, 6-2 against 40th-ranked Eka­te­rina Makarova of Rus­sia. It’s the lat­est in a string of early ex­its for Ker­ber, who reached her first three ma­jor fi­nals in 2016.

“This year, I mean, the ex­pec­ta­tions are much big­ger, es­pe­cially in the big tour­na­ments and the Grand Slams. And the ex­pec­ta­tions are also, from me, re­ally big, of course, be­cause I know what I can do, what I did last year,” Ker­ber said. “But right now, I think that I have to find my­self again.”

Other sig­nif­i­cant re­sults as the year’s sec­ond Grand Slam tournament be­gan: Two-time Wim­ble­don cham­pion Pe­tra Kvitova played — and won — her first match since be­ing stabbed by an in­truder at her home in De­cem­ber; Venus Wil­liams be­gan her 20th ap­pear­ance at Roland Gar­ros with a vic­tory; and Rio Olympics gold medal­list Mon­ica Puig elim­i­nated 2015 U.S. Open run­ner-up Roberta Vinci 6-3, 3-6, 6-2.

Makarova’s take when in­formed of the his­tory made by her vic­tory?

“Well,” she said, “that’s un­be­liev­able.”

Al­though maybe not, con­sid­er­ing how Ker­ber has fared lately.

Her Aus­tralian Open and U.S. Open ti­tles, plus Wim­ble­don run­ner-up fin­ish, seem far away: The Ger­man has a 19-13 record this sea­son.

“If you are los­ing, it’s al­ways tough to (en­joy) the game,” Ker­ber said. “I mean, I know in the last years I had al­ways up and downs and right now, of course, I’m . . . down.”

Add in that 23-time ma­jor cham­pion Ser­ena Wil­liams is tak­ing a break to have a baby and five-time ma­jor cham­pion Shara­pova was re­fused a wild card in Paris as she re­turns from a 15-month dop­ing ban, and the rest of the field might have more rea­son than usual to be­lieve in the chance to claim a Grand Slam tro­phy.

“That’s the beauty of our sport right now: Any­body can win and ev­ery­body’s re­ally good,” said Shelby Rogers, an Amer­i­can who beat Ma­rina Erakovic of New Zealand 7-6 (4), 6-4 on a steamy Sun­day when the tem­per­a­ture touched 32 C.

“I like play­ing at this time for women’s ten­nis. It’s kind of — I don’t want to say ‘open,’ be­cause ev­ery­one’s re­ally good, but — very com­pet­i­tive,” Rogers said, “and there’s not like that dom­i­nat­ing force.”

Ker­ber’s strokes were off against Makarova, who has reached two ma­jor semi­fi­nals but never been past the fourth round in Paris.

Ker­ber had only four win­ners and 12 un­forced er­rors in the first set and didn’t even earn a break point un­til the last game, which Makarova won, any­way. Makarova then raced to a 3-0 lead in the sec­ond set.

Ker­ber showed some signs of get­ting into the match dur­ing the sec­ond set, smack­ing a cross-court fore­hand pass­ing win­ner, lean­ing for­ward and yelling as she got within 3-1.

But that was about it. In the last game, Ker­ber held seven break points but Makarova fought off each one.


Ger­many’s An­gelique Ker­ber be­came first top-seeded wo­man to lose in the first round of the French Open since ten­nis’s pro­fes­sional era be­gan in 1968.

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