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By #TennisNowPoll | January 9, 2018

Anqelique Kerber

Can Germany's Angelique Kerber rise from the rubble of a disappointing 2017 and make her return to the Top 5? Tennis Now debates.

Photo Source: Zak Caczmarek/Getty

With the advent of social media, polling our readers has become so easy to do (our preferred mode is the Twitter poll), and because of that we’ve decided to base a new series on the #TennisNowPoll that we run periodically on Twitter. The premise is simple: We post a poll on Twitter—will Serena ever win another major? Are Andy Murray’s days in the Top 10 over? Does Maria Sharapova have another major in her? What was the most impressive achievement of week one of the tennis season—and let you have your say. When the results are in, we take to the word processor and have ours.

It’s a pretty simple process, and it’s one that let’s everybody take part in the creative process. We hope you enjoy reading these as much as we enjoy writing them. Without any further ado, here’s today’s poll:

Will Angelique Kerber Return to the Top 5 in 2018?

Chris Oddo

Vote: Yes

How can a player that broke out so magnificently in 2016, winning 63 matches, two major titles and finishing the year at No.1, have had such a miserable 2017? There’s no way to sugar-coat Angie’s 2017 campaign. Kerber went 24-9 against Top 20 competition in 2016 and 7-1 against the Top 20 at majors. She was a sorcerer under pressure and the bigger the match, the bigger her game.

In 2017 she went 1-12 against the Top 20 and 10-20 against the Top 50. It wasn’t that she couldn’t beat elite players in 2017, she couldn’t beat anybody good.

But all the while, we knew that Kerber’s performance wasn’t a clear indicator of her talent. She had simply used every bit of petrol in her tank to climb to the top of the game at 2016, and she had nothing left for an encore. Now, with a miserable year to motivate her, we are beginning to see the start of another Kerber renaissance. She picked up a top 10 win over Venus Williams last night, matching her total from all of 2017.

It’s clear that Kerber needed some time to process her newfound success at the top, and perhaps some time to let her body decompress from the incredible workload of 2016, which featured the Olympic Games and an unprecedented amount of match play.

It won’t be the same team that surrounds Kerber in 2018, and maybe that’s a good thing. Longtime coach Torben Beltz has been replaced by Wim Fissette, and the German has also added a new fitness coach and a new hitting partner. Judging from her 4-0 run at Hopman Cup and two wins at Sydney, it is starting to feel like Kerber has finally been able to put her Grand Slam hangover behind her.

We kept waiting for Kerber to find her form in 2017, especially after Wimbledon, when she looked like her old self for a few matches despite falling to Garbiñe Muguruza in the round of 16. It didn’t happen. Now, apparently, is the time that the real Angelique Kerber emerges. Kerber has points to defend in 2018, but not a lot. She reached the fourth round at Australia and Wimbledon, while falling in the first round at Roland Garros and the U.S. Open. She only reached three semifinals and one final all season.

At No.22 in the world with 2022 ranking points, Kerber is about 3,500 points out of the Top 5. It won’t be an easy road by any means, but something tells me that the German will find her way back to the Top 5 by October, maybe with a third Grand Slam title to boot.

Richard Pagliaro

Vote: Yes

The former world No. 1 has looked eager and energized after dazed and dispirited end to 2017 when she struggled to a 5-9 record after Wimbledon. Kerber has won all six matches she’s played so far, including a three-set comeback conquest of No. 5 Venus Williams in Sydney and wins over three former Top 10 players: Lucie Safarova, Belinda Bencic and Genie Bouchard.

This is precisely the kind of confident start that should empower the 2016 Australian Open champion in Melbourne, where she’s been to the fourth round or better in four of the last five years.

Kerber remains a clever counter puncher and she will attain a Top 5 ranking this season, but I don’t believe she will sustain it.

Here’s three reasons why I see her cracking the Top 5:

1. Working with new coach Wim Fissette can be invigorating for her game and potentially inspire her to use her speed and movement as offensive—rather than retrieving—assets.

2. Kerber’s clay season in 2017 was so poor—she won just four matches total in Stuttgart, Madrid, Rome and Paris—that she’s only defending 920 ranking points over the final seven months of 2018. That means there’s plenty of opportunity for her to ascend the rankings—particularly if she produces strong first-half results.

3. The 2016 US Open champion lost in the first round of Flushing Meadows last year, where she’s traditionally played some of her most dynamic tennis.

Here’s three reasons why I don’t believe Kerber will stay in the Top 5:

1. The second serve is still suspect. Under pressure she sometimes arms in a slice second serve without complete commitment making her vulnerable to big hitters.

2. Kerber can still struggle when forced to generate her own pace or when opponents play her deep down the middle and deny her angles on slower surfaces. Though she’s won Stuttgart twice, clay is her least favorite surface—Kerber has made five first-round exits from the French Open including each of the last two years. Tough to be a Top 5 player without posting clay results.

3. Kerber celebrates her 30th birthday next week and while she is supremely fit several of her fellow Grand Slam champions—Serena, Garbine Muguruza, Jelena Ostapenko—are more explosive while contenders seeking major breakthroughs, including Simona Halep, Elina Svitolina, Johanna Konta, Ashleigh Barty—have played Kerber tough in recent encounters. The competition is getting younger and stronger making it more challenging for her to prevail in grinding matches where she has excelled.


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