Angelique Kerber advanced at the 2016 Western & Southern Open (WTA Cincinnati) on Thursday. The German had some trouble with Czech player Barbora Strycova. However, Kerber prevailed in a 7-6, 6-4 victory. The result has put her through to the quarterfinals in Cincinnati with the World No. 1 ranking perhaps very close for the German. Kerber could be the top-ranked player in the world as early as Monday when the WTA next updates their rankings.
However, from another point of view Kerber certainly isn’t close to being tops in the world yet. Her draw in Cincinnati will hardly be simple over the next few days. Rather the German still has a large mountain to climb if she is to reach the top spot in the women’s rankings.
Next up, she will face Carla Suarez-Navarro, a tough Spanish player. Kerber is only 4-3 against the Spaniard on overall head-to-heads. That heads-up record suggests a fair degree of parity between the two and there seems to be a genuine chance that Kerber will be eliminated on Friday.
However, some trends within the overall series are worth looking at. For instance, Kerber is 3-1 in their hard-court matches over the years. That series includes three straight wins on the same surface, with Suarez-Navarro last beating the German on the cement back in 2013. From most points of view, Kerber’s quarterfinal match does not appear as though it will be too problematic. If the German is sharp, then she should be through to the semifinals.
But looking ahead, Kerber may very well end up facing Simona Halep after the quarters – a match-up that would be problematic for the German. Halep is a player that has given Kerber some trouble over the courses of their careers. For example, the Romanian defeated Kerber recently at the 2016 Rogers Cup and Halep owns a 4-2 edge in their head-to-head series. That series includes a perfect 4-0 record on the hard-court surface in favor of the Romanian. If Kerber and Halep face in the semifinals, then the German would have a trend to buck, and that’s just to make the final in Cincinnati this weekend. In order to seize the No. 1 ranking on Monday, Kerber will need the Western & Southern Open title outright.
When it comes to the German’s chances, we can’t forget about the fatigue factor. Kerber, who played for the gold medal in Rio on August 13th, has been active of late. It should be hard for her to summon the energy to win the matches imminently ahead against increasingly difficult competition.
Other players besides Kerber, Halep, and Suarez-Navarro that are in the quarters include Karolina Pliskova, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Timea Babos, and Garbine Muguruza. At the time of writing Agnieszka Radwanska and Johanna Konta also remained alive as they were involved in a close round of 16 match, one that went well passed midnight on Thursday night.