By Mike McIntyre
Photography by Jimmie48 Tennis Photography
Carrying the burden of being the World No. 1 seems to be getting the best of Angelique Kerber. The 29 year old German went crashing out of Roland Garros on the opening day of play Monday, taken down by the 40th ranked Ekaterina Makarova of Russia by a score of 6-2, 6-2 in a battle of two lefty players.
The loss has been labeled by many as a shock but truthfully there were many signs that this was a very possible outcome. Rather than seize the opportunity to take charge of the No 1 ranking with a pregnant Serena Williams out for the rest of 2017, Kerber has wilted under the pressure and seems to be playing with less and less confidence with each event she enters.
Her record this season is now 3-5 on the red dirt and Kerber admitted after the loss that she can't wait to, "forget the clay court season as soon as possible."
To be fair, Kerber admittedly is not as comfortable on clay as with other surfaces and in her pre-tournament press she did not sound like a player who truly believed in her chances in Paris.
"Everybody knows it's not my favorite surface," Kerber said. "But, yeah, we have to play on clay. I try my best. Last year as well, these were not the best weeks for me. I mean, it was my best year, but when I played tournaments on clay, I was not performing so well. This year it's the same.”
Makarova deserves credit as the former World No. 8 (2015) has twice before made it to the fourth round of the French Open. Despite having a 4-7 record vs Kerber coming into the match, Makarova's wealth of experience would have undoubtedly calmed any nerves that one might normally experience playing the top seed.
According to the WTA Insider on Twitter, Kerber will still manage to retain the No. 1 ranking unless Karolina Pliskova makes the final or if Simona Halep wins the title.
Either way it does not appear likely that Kerber will be holding onto the ranking much longer at this rate. A change of surface and mentality is required for her to get back to her winning ways of a year ago.