May 28, 2017
Angelique Kerber has become the first women’s top seed to be dumped out of the French Open in her very first match.
She crashed to Ekaterina Makarova, who couldn’t believe her luck as she was let off the hook time and again before cruising through 6-2, 6-2.
The embarrassing reversal of fortunes for the world number one came partly as a result of missed chances on break point. She converted just two out of sixteen opportunities, and was equally uncertain when it came to playing behind her own vulnerable serve on the day.
The ruthless Russian cashed in to break six times, and Makarova progresses with one of the biggest scalps in the sport under her belt.
For Kerber, the underlying cause of her crisis in confidence seems to be a difficulty in handling the pressure of being top gun, the player everyone wants to shoot down.
That is a problem she appears to have been sharing with Britain’s Andy Murray, who has also failed to capture his best form so far this year.
Kerber can’t wait to forget the clay-court season and concentrate instead on trying to salvage her season on grass. Somehow she needs to get back to doing all the things that made her such a force to be reckoned with last year.
But the German acknowledged: ‘Last year was a completely different year. The pressure is always there but this year the expectations are much bigger, especially in the big tournaments and Grand Slams.
‘And the expectations from me are also really big, of course, because I know what I can do, what I did last year.’
There is nothing like living in the present in sport, however. So it’s back to basics for Kerber, last year’s Wimbledon finalist, who must learn to forget what happened in Paris and concentrate instead on playing to her strengths once more.
She said sadly: ‘Right now I have to find myself again and just try to forget the clay-court season as soon as possible and then reset and start from the grass courts again.’
What her defeat means is that practically anyone could win the women’s singles at Roland Garros – and the same could be true of Wimbledon.
Rarely has the women’s game been so exciting and unpredictable, as the tennis world waits to see who will emerge as the dominant player in 2017.
Could a new star be born in the next few weeks? Very possibly. There is an irresistible freshness to the women’s game at present – and we can expect a dramatic twist on virtually every day of Roland Garros – and Wimbledon 2017 too.