No pressure as No. 1, but Kerber aims to win titles

MIAMI • Germany's Angelique Kerber heads into this week's Miami Open in the unusual position of having regained the world No. 1 ranking despite a disappointing start to the season.

But the 29-year-old says her newly gained status will not add any extra pressure, as she seeks to secure her first tournament win of 2017.

"I am No. 1 again but this is not what is really important for me. What is important is that I go out and play good matches, that is why I am here," she said on Tuesday.

"I think I have got used already to pressure. This is not a problem at all. Of course it is a new challenge, a completely new year for me, so I think it's not so easy but in the end, it is just the beginning of the year.

"I am feeling good and practising good and I still think I can have a good year."

Kerber lost top spot to Serena Williams after the American won the Australian Open in January, but the 23-time Grand Slam singles winner's knee injury forced her out of Indian Wells earlier this month and the Miami tournament.

But Kerber's form has hardly been that of the world's best. In California she went out in the round of 16 to Russia's eventual winner Elena Vesnina and her only deep run in a tournament this year was in Dubai last month, where she lost to Ukrainian Elina Svitolina in the semi-final.

Kerber has also failed to beat a top-20 player this year, raising questions about her form after a stellar 2016 in which she won the Australian Open and the US Open and was runner-up at Wimbledon.

Should Kerber progress to the third round at Miami she will come up against 19-year-old Russian Daria Kasatkina, who has already beaten her twice this year - in Sydney and Qatar.

But Kerber said that potential match-up was far from her mind.

"First I have my first round (against Duan Yingying on Friday) and that is the toughest thing and is what I am thinking about, I take it round by round," she said.

In the men's game, Roger Federer's comeback from injury has been so successful that his compatriot Stan Wawrinka believes he can become the oldest world No. 1 in history at the age of 35.

Federer beat Wawrinka in the final of Indian Wells on Sunday for his second win of the year, following his triumph in the Australian Open - his 18th Grand Slam title and his first in 41/2 years.

Those successes have propelled the Swiss master to sixth in the world, as he makes excellent progress after a six-month layoff caused by a knee injury.

"He's playing really well. What is different maybe is he is playing closer from the baseline, preferring, using less his slice, he is using more top spin, putting more pressure all the time, returning better - that's the difference," Wawrinka said.

"For sure he has a shot for No. 1, he has just won the first Masters final. For sure he has a big shot."

Andre Agassi owns the record for being the oldest player to hold the men's No. 1 ranking, at the age of 33.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 23, 2017, with the headline 'No pressure as No. 1, but Kerber aims to win titles'. Print Edition | Subscribe