Angelique Kerber: The petite German followed up her breakthrough 2011 US Open with a solid 2012 season that included a semifinal at Wimbledon and the quarterfinals of the French Open. Kerber ended the year at the WTA Championships, where she didn’t win any matches, but jumped in the hotel pool in celebration for her banner 62-22 year.
Strengths: What Kerber has done is taken the human backboard model of Wozniacki and upgraded on the movement and shot-making aspect of the game, making her a threat to big hitters. Her added lefty spin can be deceptive, as well, making her opponents second guess where she’s going to hit the ball. And Kerber has a habit of raising her game in the third set. She went 19-2 in three setters in 2012, including 10 come-from-behind wins.
Weaknesses: While Kerber earned staying power in 2012, it’s the raw power that she lacks on the court that gets her into trouble. Every other player inside of the top 10 – sans Sara Errani – hits the ball harder than Kerber, leaving her to be the defender in most late-round matches.
Opportunities: It may seem like Kerber has gone as high as she can go, but the German only made the third round in Melbourne last year, going out to Maria Sharapova. With a top eight seed, Kerber won’t face anyone seeded higher than her until the quarterfinals at the earliest, meaning she has all the chance in the world not only to bump up her ranking, but to do so with a strong run at the Australian Open.
Threats: While 2012 may have been classified as a Cloud 9 kind of year for the 24 year old, she was brought back down to earth at the WTA Championships in Istanbul where she lost three straight matches. That is the part of the game that she still struggles against: the established big hitters. A productive off season would have been spent strengthening her upper body so she isn’t trying to play from behind come the second week of majors.
Mary Joe Fernandez, former world No. 4 and tennis analyst:
I really like Kerber’s game. She’s a player that is creative and savvy on the court. I got to watch her more this last year and when you first watch her you think, ‘Why does she win so much? What stands out?’ The thing is, she constructs her points so well and she is such a great competitor. She simply doesn’t give up. She won so many matches in the last year when she was down and out and came back to win in three sets. She has no weaknesses, except her second serve – which I think she defends really well. The fact that she’s a lefty makes her an even more difficult opponent. You have to beat her. You’re not going to beat her if you’re having a bad day.