Angelique Kerber, the world no. 2, started the week having high hopes of regaining the first slot of women's singles ranking. With Serena Williams calling an end to the season due to pregnancy, the German saw her direct competition being dragged off the board. Stuttgart, a Premier event held on indoor clay, used to be a fertile ground for Kerber who won its last two editions.

This time, her run prematurely came to an end yesterday as Kristina Mladenokovic of France ousted the world no. 2 in straight sets. Even so, the German will have to sit and count the weeks until she will regain the first spot in the ranking.

Going deeper into the clay court season, she will have only a few grains to defend while Serena Williams given her current situation won't be able to stand behind last year's results.

Angelique Kerber must keep a close eye on Pliskova who also few points to keep safe in the vault

Regarding the clay court results from 2016, Serena Williams won't be there to defend her title in Rome and the runner-up status at the french open. That means a clear road ahead for the German unless Karolina Pliskova will step onto the stage as she did in the second part of 2016.

The Czech player is working by a similar scenario the German player has. Back in 2016, her game was rather disappointing on clay having a pile of early exits on the tournaments she signed up for.

At the time being, the gap between Kerber and Pliskova is about 900 points, but it may shrink around 550 if the Czech prevails in Stuttgart. The next in line could be Simona Halep, but the Romanian star has a significant burden to care about.

Kerber must seize the opportunity

Back to Angelique Kerber, the season of 2017 has been quite hard for her as she is yet to win a WTA title this year.

It seems that there is a sense of disbelief and lack of focus in her game. Given the last year's results, the clay season is the right time to step in and consolidate the ranking because once the action changes to the grass court, she will enter a race around the clock to defend a huge pile of points. Going even further, the North American outdoor season during the summer is also critical for the German having to defend 2016 US Open title, Cincinnati crown as well as the semis of the Canadian Open.

It's easier to say than done as Angelique Kerber has little success on clay courts with Stuttgart being the exception. Her top game seems made for faster surfaces like hard or grass. The curiosity about Stuttgart is that being an indoor event; the rain is not an issue which leads to a consistently dry clay court. Anyone knows that a moisture-free clay is faster than an outdoor field where the possibility of a soggy court is much higher. Just remember the 2016 French Open and the significant troubles caused by rain.