Pressured Kerber sticks to game plan

MELBOURNE • Angelique Kerber has admitted the pressures of being world No. 1, saying she is trying to shut out the noise while preparing to defend a major title for the first time at the Australian Open.

She stunned Serena Williams in the final and ultimately ended the American's 186-week stay on top of the world rankings during a memorable season.

With a US Open title also to her name, Kerber said her life had changed over the past 12 months - more off-court obligations, less time for herself and the added burden of expectation.

"I have much more things to do. That's changed," the German left-hander, who lives in Poland, said yesterday. "But this is part of being one of the best players.

"That was always the goal, so I'm trying to living it now.

"I'm not thinking too much that I'm top-seeded now. When I'm thinking like this, the pressure is much higher."

The top spot has proved a heavy burden for some women.

The Dane Caroline Wozniacki held the ranking twice during 2010-11 but was unable to cement it with Grand Slam success, as did Serbian Jelena Jankovic (2008-09) and Russian Dinara Safina (2009).

The recently retired Ana Ivanovic (2008-09) did not add to her French Open title after being No. 1.

Kerber opens her title defence against Ukraine's Lesia Tsurenko and faces the prospect of a potential quarter-final with French Open winner Garbine Muguruza.

Kerber could lose her No. 1 ranking to Williams in Melbourne, and she is taking nothing for granted, saying: "I have to be ready from the first round again.

"I'm expecting the same as the years before - going out there trying my best, fighting till the last point. This is always how I play, how I am. This will not be changing."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 16, 2017, with the headline 'Pressured Kerber sticks to game plan'. Print Edition | Subscribe