Kerber’s Withdrawal From Birmingham Casts Cloud Over Wimbledon Preparations

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The entry list of the Aegon Classic has dwindled dramatically since the beginning of the week as Karolina Pliskova, Simona Halep, Madison Keys, and many more withdrew from the event. Now, the top seeded Angelique Kerber addressed the press to confirm that she is withdrawing from the tournament with a left hamstring injury. It is the same injury that forced her to retire against Eugenie Bouchard in Madrid, which makes the seriousness of the injury a real scare for the current World No.1 player.

The two-time Grand Slam champion will be wondering where she can catch a break. She’s suffered with notable injuries that have set her back and she also has experienced a considerable loss of confidence since becoming the World No.1 player in women’s tennis. A story that has been well-documented in 2017 is Kerber’s struggle of dealing with the pressure of being that World No.1 player that everyone expects her to be. Kerber talked about the seriousness of the injury, her preparation for Wimbledon, and how she continues to fight the battles in her head of being World No.1:

“It started yesterday. It is my left hamstring. It is the same as what I had in Madrid. It was okay and then I started practicing again after Paris so I started feeling it the last few days. I don’t want to risk nothing.”

The biggest worry was how this will affect her 2017 Wimbledon. She’s the defending finalist at that tournament and she’s always been a great mover on the grass court and reaps the benefits of what a grass court offers her game. This is what Kerber had to say about still being able to play Wimbledon:

“Of course I hope so. Hopefully I’m alright very soon. And I will do what I can to be ready as soon as possible. I’m still hopeful that I can play Eastbourne, because that was my plan to play here and Eastbourne to have a lot of matches.”

The move from a clay court to a grass court is always tough to do, particularly when a player spends a large portion of the season playing an accumulation of clay court matches, and then suddenly has to deal with the demands of a grass court, which is so much different than a clay court. It was obvious that Kerber recognised that change when ensuring that her hamstring was fully recovered before playing competitive matches on a grass court this season.

The most telling part of the roundtable interview was Kerber’s honesty on the psychological demons of being World No.1:

“Of course the pressure is there and it is a completely different pressure than it was last year and the years before. I think 5 years in the Top 10 and the pressure was always there. Being No.1 in Germany it was always pressure but of course being No.1 it is a different pressure. There are so many expectations. It is a process for me to find the right way for me to handle it a little bit.”

When you look back at the 2017 season for Kerber, she did not play a great deal of matches on the clay. She went out in the second round of Stuttgart to Kristina Mladenovic, retired against Bouchard in Madrid, and failed to win a match in Rome or Roland Garros, so she hasn’t played consistently for quite a long time. This injury is yet another setback in Kerber’s quest to keep hold of that No.1 ranking, which continues to be under threat by the likes of Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova. It still remains a serious doubt whether we will see Kerber in Eastbourne. She remained positive, but still unclear as to whether she can play a heavy grass court season.

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