Kerber set to end 2016 on a high


Singapore (AFP)

Newly-crowned world number one Angelique Kerber has rediscovered her form and is poised to end the year on a high at the $7 million WTA Finals in Singapore.

The German started 2016 by lifting the Australian Open trophy, her first major title, but said she initially struggled with her new level of success, making an early exit at France's Roland Garros.

"(The French Open) was the first Grand Slam after my biggest victory and I was not able to deal with the pressure and everything," she told reporters Saturday. "But I learn a lot, especially (from) the loss in Paris."

She found her second wind later in 2016, reaching the Wimbledon finals and the Rio Olympics before the 28-year-old produced her best performance to date, winning the US Open and capturing the number one ranking.

Powerhouse Serena Williams, the only player with the chance of overtaking Kerber for the top spot, last week pulled out of the elite eight-player tournament in Singapore with a shoulder injury.

Williams' absence has levelled the playing field and, with most players exhausted after a long season, Kerber fancies her chances of winning the Billie Jean King trophy for the first time.

She begins her campaign on Sunday against Slovakia's Dominika Cibulkova, in the first of three round robin matches each qualifier is guaranteed.

"This tournament in my opinion is open. In tennis now I think the level is similar, so everyone can win it," said third seed Simona Halep, who faces American Madison Keys in the opening match of the tournament.

Another player battling injuries and fatigue is French Open winner Garbine Muguruza, who pulled out of a recent tournament in Linz after spraining her ankle.

"(Last year) I ended up exhausted and I was playing singles and doubles," the Spaniard said.

"I think this year is going to be good for me to concentrate only in singles and just try to win all the round robin matches I can to feel good," she said.

Muguruza plays her first match on Monday against Czech Karolina Pliskova, while the defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska takes on either Johanna Konta or Svetlana Kuznetsova.