By Karolos Grohmann
(Reuters) – Former world number one Angelique Kerber is going into next week’s French Open knowing victory on the Parisian clay would make her only the seventh woman in tennis with a complete set of all four major titles.
But the 31-year-old German, who won the Australian and U.S. Opens in 2016 and added Wimbledon to her titles last year, will have to beat the odds and achieve it on her least favourite surface and in a year when her clay preparations have suffered.
“I am still not thinking about this too much, to be honest, though I am answering the questions (about a career Grand Slam),” Kerber told the WTA website.
“I am not going to put big pressure on myself in Paris to complete the career Grand Slam. In the end, every tournament is a different experience, and you have the two weeks to get through.
“If I had the chance to complete the career Grand Slam, that would be amazing, but I’m not thinking about this right now, as it’s still a long way off,” said the current world number five.
Kerber is aware of the work she will need to put in, with her claycourt record far less spectacular than that of other surfaces.
Of her 12 career titles, only three have come on clay – 2015 Charleston, 2015 Stuttgart and 2016 Stuttgart. She has also never reached a final on an outdoor European red clay tournament.
Her counter-punching, power game has brought more results on hard surfaces and the English grass than the slower European clay. Her best show in Paris are two quarter-final appearances in 2012 and 2018.
To add to her challenge Kerber has had a far from perfect preparation on clay this year after first being hit by a virus and hurting her ankle which forced her out of the Madrid Open second round.
She also missed the Italian Open as she worked her way back to fitness for the French Open and her last match was her first- round win in Madrid on May 5.
“You know clay and me, you know the story,” Kerber said. “Of course, it’s not the best claycourt preparation. I think it’s the worst I ever had and I was looking forward this year to the claycourt season.”
But it is not the first time Kerber sets out to beat the odds, as she did in 2018 when she beat seven-times champion Serena Williams in the Wimbledon final following a disappointing 2017 season when she had dropped out of the top 20.
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Ed Osmond)