Angelique Kerber – World No. 1 Ranking Watch

Angelique Kerber is in Cincinnati this week with the World No. 1 ranking within reach.

Angelique Kerber moved into the third round of the 2016 Western & Southern Open (WTA Cincinnati) on Wednesday, defeating Kristina Mladenovic in straight sets 6-0, 7-5. With the victory, Kerber is now just four match-wins away from seizing the World No. 1 ranking following Serena Williams’ exit from the tournament with a shoulder injury. Williams had won the tournament outright in 2015, so her failing to compete in the event this week cost her a significant amount of ranking points. It’s those lost points that has largely opened the door for Kerber in such a sudden manner.

The day of action in Cincinnati on Wednesday saw numerous other high-ranked players advance in the tournament. Garbine Muguruza remained alive in the draw, Simona Halep advanced, and so did Agnieszka Radwanska. The highest seeded player to fall was No. 13 Belinda Bencic, the Swiss teenager perhaps continuing to struggle with fitness problems following a testing season so far.

With an eye on Kerber and her effort to gain the World No. 1 ranking, next up for her is Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic. Surviving that, the German would face either Roberta Vinci or Carla Suarez-Navarro in the quarters. Halep is the player most likely to defeat Kerber ahead of the final, the two players possibly colliding in the semifinal round. Lastly, Muguruza looms large as a potential finalist from the top half of the draw.

The only way that Kerber could overtake the World No. 1 ranking this week is by winning the Cincinnati title outright. A 2nd-placed finish would not give her enough ranking points immediately, although Kerber could still claim top spot with results in future events.

However, if Williams is injured enough to miss a lot of time Kerber isn’t the only one in contention for top spot in the longer term. Halep, Muguruza, and Radwanska are all pretty tight near the top of the rankings and they all have enough potential to go on a strong run of form. If Kerber doesn’t overtake top spot in Cincinnati, there really is no guarantee that she ever will.

Running the tables at the Western & Southern Open promises to put the German’s fitness to the test. She did play the maximum number of singles matches in Rio last week, losing in the gold-medal final to Monica Puig. All that tennis could make it tough for Kerber to maintain high-energy levels late tournament in Cincinnati. Yet, with nothing but a title good enough to supplant Williams, getting the World No. 1 ranking will truly test the German as she looks to make the first post-Rio tennis headlines this weekend.

Shane Lambert