Kerber maintains course as rivals skip Sydney

Published by AAP / Tennismash

Angelique Kerber arrives at the Sydney International off the back of four out of four singles victories at Hopman Cup.
World No.2 Angelique Kerber is defending champion this week at the Sydney International, yet Karolina Pliskova, Naomi Osaka, Daniil Medvedev and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga have all withdrawn.

Defending Sydney International champion Angelique Kerber is hoping another Sydney International title will lead to a repeat of last year’s dream tennis season in 2019.

Like last year, Kerber represented Germany and lost the Hopman Cup final to Switzerland.

And, like last year, she’s back as part of a stacked Sydney field that includes world No.1 Simona Halep, former US Open champion Sloane Stephens, and two-time Grand Slam winner Petra Kvitova.

However, reigning Sydney champion Daniil Medvedev and Karolina Pliskova, who lifted the Brisbane trophy on Sunday, have joined a number of withdrawals from the Sydney International line-up.

Kerber, who defeated home charge Ash Barty in the 2018 Sydney trophy showdown, went on to win her first 14 matches of the season, eventually losing in the Australian Open semi-finals to Halep, 9-7 in the third set.

She also beat Serena Williams at Wimbledon to claim her third major  title and finished the year as the world No.2.

The 30-year-old has again got off to a hot start this summer, winning all four of her singles matches in Perth, including another victory over Barty.

NEWS: Nishikori ends title drought with Brisbane triumph

“It was just the beginning of the new season for me in Perth. I had four really good matches,” Kerber said after arriving in Sydney and hitting the courts for the first time on Monday.

“I was trying to (make) the transition from the practice court to the match courts.

“I was feeling, from match to match, better and better. And I can see, of course, that I’m feeling good and the rhythm is there.”

World No.7 Pliskova – who defeated Lesia Tsurenko in the Brisbane final – and US Open champion Naomi Osaka, who reached the semifinals in Brisbane, have already withdrawn from the tournament, but Kerber was never going to pass up the opportunity to defend her title.

“I really love this tournament. You have a really strong field here with really top players, and to have a lot of matches before going to Melbourne and finding your confidence,” she said.

“Enjoying Sydney as well a little bit before going then to the busy Melbourne, it’s always, for me, a good start of the year.”

Meanwhile, just like Pliskova, Medvedev has relinquished his spot in Sydney after reaching the Brisbane International final on Sunday night, where he lost to Kei Nishikori.

“I am very disappointed not to defend my Sydney title but I had a big week in Brisbane and I need to take a couple of days to recover and prepare for the Australian Open,” said the world No.16, who joined his Brisbane semifinal victim Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in pulling out of the event.

“As my first ATP tour title, Sydney will always be special to me and I’m excited to come back and play there again in the future.”

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