Angelique Kerber opens her Adelaide International campaign on Monday when she faces China's Qiang Wang in the first round.
Kerber vs Wang is live from Adelaide on Monday, 13 January from 9:30pm local time/ 9:30am GMT
Kerber was initially drawn to face Sloane Stephens in the opening round, but the draw was rejigged following Petra Kvitova’s withdrawal from the tournament. Kerber moves into Kvitova’s position as No. 9 seed and will now face Wang, while Stephens opens against qualifier, Arina Rodionova.
Kerber is targeting her first win of the season, after losing 7-6 7-6 to Sam Stosur in her 2020 opener in Brisbane last week.
Under new coach, Dieter Kindlmann, the German is seeking some sort of revival this year following a below par 2019. It was by no means a terrible season, as the German reached finals at Indian Wells and Eastbourne, and made semi-finals in Doha, Monterrey, Mallorca and Osaka, but she was well short of the level she attained in the previous year, particularly in the Slams.
In 2018, she won Wimbledon, made the semi-finals at the Australian Open and reached the quarters at Roland Garros, but she did not make a single major quarter final in 2019, suffering opening round losses at Roland Garros and the US Open, and crashing to a second round exit at Wimbledon.
That Wimbledon result played a key role in her slide down the rankings, as she slipped from No. 2 at the start of the year to a season-ending mark of 20th.
Kerber is no stranger to bouncing back from disappointing seasons- her 2018 surge was in response to a 2017 slump- and she will hope for improvements on her 2019 results as she proceeds into the new season.
Can she pick up her first win of the year when she faces Qiang Wang on Monday?
Wang was a quarter finalist in Shenzhen last week, beating Ons Jabeur and Aliaksandra Sasnovich before losing to Ekaterina Alexandrova in the last eight.
The 27-year-old had a decent 2019, the highlight being reaching her maiden Grand Slam quarter final at the US Open, which included a fourth round victory Ashleigh Barty. The Chinese also made the third round at the Australian Open and Wimbledon, while she was a semi-finalist in Bronx, and a quarter finalist in Miami and Prague.
Wang was ranked inside the top-20 for most of last season, peaking at a career-high No. 12 in mid-September, but she did not have a particularly good Asian swing, winning just two matches across Guangzhou, Wuhan, Beijing and Tianjin to finish the year. Her poor end to the season was in sharp contrast to her fantastic finish to 2018, when she won in Guangzhou, made finals in Hong Kong and Zhuhai, and contested big semi-finals in Wuhan and Beijing.
Her ranking inevitably fell as a result, as she ended last year at 30th in the world.
She made a decent start to the year in Shenzhen, winning back-to-back matches for the first time since last year’s US Open. Can she make it three in a row by taking down Kerber in their first ever meeting on Monday?
Neither Kerber nor Wang possesses overwhelming power to hit the other off the court, but they both rely on their consistency and athleticism to maneuver their way to victory. Kerber has been one of the very best at doing that in recent years, which is why she starts this match as favourite.