Kerber keen to shine in final Grand Slam warm-up

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Angelique Kerber of Germany reacts while playing against Elina Svitolina of Ukraine in their women’s singles quarter-final match at the Brisbane International tennis tournament in Brisbane on January 5. AFP PHOTO

Angelique Kerber of Germany reacts while playing against Elina Svitolina of Ukraine in their women’s singles quarter-final match at the Brisbane International tennis tournament in Brisbane on January 5. AFP PHOTO

SYDNEY: Angelique Kerber has one last chance to shine ahead of the Australian Open after crashing out early at the Brisbane International, but she insists she is happy with her game heading into her final warm-up at Sydney.

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The world No.1, preparing to defend her title at the opening Grand Slam of the year at Melbourne Park, was unexpectedly dumped from the Brisbane tournament in the quarter-finals Thursday by Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina.

Despite the 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 defeat, Kerber is content with her form as she prepares to tackle the WTA/ATP Sydney International, which gets underway on Sunday.

“I’m happy with my start (to the year). Of course I’m obviously disappointed with how I lost in the quarters,” she said. “But I can take the positives out of the tournament.”

Kerber headlines a women’s draw in Sydney that features 11 of the world’s top 20 in their final outing before the Australian Open starting January 16.

The left-hander had a breakthrough 2016, winning two Grand Slams on her way to becoming the first German world number one since Steffi Graf in 1996.

“I have had two good matches in Brisbane. I will try to have a few more matches before Melbourne (in Sydney),” she said.

Challenging her in Sydney will be the 2013 champion and world number three Agnieszka Radwanska, along with fifth-ranked Dominika Cibulkova, who also crashed in the last eight at Brisbane.

Kerber’s Brisbane conqueror Svitolina is also due to play, as is US Open finalist Karolina Pliskova, 10th-ranked Johanna Konta, and veteran Svetlana Kuznetsova who won the title last year.

Austria’s Dominic Thiem is the top seed in the men’s draw ahead of Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas and Serbia’s Viktor Troicki.

Thiem, heading into the new year ranked eight, is coming off a breakout season that featured a first Grand Slam semi-final at Roland Garros and a debut at the ATP World Tour Finals.

“Top 10 was a big milestone because it’s so tough to reach. You need so many points, so many good results,” said Thiem.

“I think now my next big goal is just to stay there as long as possible, because maybe it’s even tougher to stay there than to break into the top 10.”

Troicki, riding a 12-match winning streak in Sydney, is bidding to become the first player in the tournament’s Open-era history to win three Sydney titles in a row.

Rising Australian youngster Thanasi Kokkinakis will make his long-awaited return to singles action on a wildcard following a horror run of injuries last year.

AFP

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