Former world No. 1, Angelique Kerber serves off her 2020 season on Monday when she takes on Australia's Sam Stosur in the first round of the Brisbane International.
Kerber is coming off a below par 2019, during which she failed to win a title, and fell to a year-end ranking of 20th, having begun the season as the No. 2 player in the world.
Chiefly responsible for her drop in the rankings were her poor performances at the Grand Slams. The 31-year-old did not make a single major quarter final in 2019, with her best performance being a fourth round run at the Australian Open. Kerber managed just one more Grand Slam match win after Melbourne, against Tatjana Maria in the opening round at Wimbledon. She suffered a second round exit to Lauren Davis at the All England Club, where she was defending champion, while she crashed at the first hurdle at Roland Garros and the US Open, losing to Anastasia Potapova and Kristina Mladenovic respectively.
Her 2019 Grand Slam results were in sharp contrast with her efforts in 2018, when she won Wimbledon, reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open, and made the last eight at the French Open.
Kerber was not without her moments in 2019- the German made finals at Indian Wells and Eastbourne, while she was a semi-finalist in Doha, Monterrey, Mallorca and Osaka. She had a poor finish to the year, scratching out a 4-8 record in the second half of the season. That spell included a run of five consecutive defeats between Wimbledon and Zhengzhou.
She will hope for a change in fortunes in the new year, as she attempts to get her ranking moving once again in the right direction. Kerber starts the year with a new coach, having hired compatriot, Dieter Kindlmann during the off season. The three-time major winner had been without a coach since ending her partnership with Rainer Schuettler last July.
Kerber is competing in Brisbane for the first time since 2017, when she lost in the quarter finals to Elina Svitolina. Her best performance at the tournament remains her runner-up finish to Victoria Azarenka in 2016. Will it be a winning return for the former world No. 1 when she takes on local favourite, Sam Stosur on Monday?
Stosur has an extremely poor record in Brisbane- she has failed to cross the opening round in four of the last five years. The last time she won a match at this event was in 2016, when she defeated Jana Cepelova in the opening round.
Her quest to avoid a fifth straight defeat at the tournament hasn’t been helped by a difficult draw which has her facing a three-time major winner and a former world No. 1 in the first round.
Stosur, the US Open champion in 2011, can take encouragement from a decent finish to last season, when she reached the Guangzhou final, and secured a top-100 year-end finish. The former world No. 4 had fallen as low as 139th in September, but she ended the season in 99th. Apart from that Guangzhou final, which she lost to Sofia Kenin in three sets, Stosur managed back-to-back wins in just two other tournaments, in Miami, where she made the third round, and in a quarter final run in Lausanne.
The Australian not only has to deal with a poor record in Brisbane on Monday; she also has to overturn a four-match losing streak against Angelique Kerber if she is to progress into the second round. Kerber has a 6-3 lead in the overall head-to-head, and has won eight consecutive sets against the Australian.
The counterpunching German has been dominant in their recent meetings, and that looks set to continue when she goes head-to-head with Stosur for the 10th time on Monday.