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Former No. 1 Kerber eyeing improvement after rehiring coach Beltz

Aug 31, 2020; Flushing Meadows, New York, USA; Angelique Kerber of Germany returns a shot to Alja Tomljanovic of Australia on day one of the 2020 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports

(Reuters) - Angelique Kerber has not won a title since 2018 but the former world number one is hoping better days lie ahead after rehiring compatriot Torben Beltz as her coach and restoring a partnership that helped the German win two of her three Grand Slam titles.

Kerber, who has slipped down the rankings to 23rd, parted ways with Dieter Kindlmann in July while the tennis circuit was shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Yeah, returning to Torben, it’s actually nice again to have someone who I really know, who knows me, how my game is working, and he knows how to improve my game as well,” Kerber told reporters after her opening victory in the U.S. Open on Monday.

Kerber, seeded 17th in New York this year, defeated Ajla Tomljanovic 6-4 6-4 in her first match since her fourth round defeat to Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in January in the Australian Open.

Kerber, 32, has not won a title since picking up her third Grand Slam at Wimbledon in 2018 under then coach Wim Fissette.

She has had multiple stints with Beltz since they first started working when she turned professional in 2003.

Kerber had the most successful year of her career in 2016 when she won the Australian Open and the U.S. Open, finished runner-up at the WTA Finals, and rose to number one in the world. She split with Beltz the following year.

“So we are speaking the same language. He knows me since I’m, I don’t know, 16, 17. So this is actually what is nice to have on my side right now,” said Kerber, who will face compatriot Anna-Lena Friedsam in the second round.

“I’m really happy that I have now a good team around me. We had a lot of fun in the last few weeks during our preparation.”

Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Peter Rutherford