MIAMI: Germany’s Angelique Kerber heads into this week’s Miami Open in the unusual position of having regained the world number one 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 number one 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,” Kerber told reporters 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 its 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,” she said.
Kerber lost top spot to Serena Williams after the American won the Australian Open in January, but the 23-time Grand Slam winner’s knee injury forced her out of Indian Wells earlier this month and the Miami tournament.
But the Poland-based Kerber’s form has hardly been that of the world’s best. In Calfornia 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 in February, where she lost to Ukrainian Elina Svitolina in the semi-final.
Kerber has also failed to beat a top-20 ranked 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.
– All in the mind? –
Former world number one and 18-times grand slam winner Chris Evert believes Kerber is not taking enough risks with her play.
“I think it’s all in her head, and it is a big adjustment to have that number one bullseye on your back and to continue to play with the fearlessness that it took for her to get there,” said Evert, now an ESPN television analyst.
“She went out of the box in big matches that she won last year; she took more chances. She played more fearless tennis. She went for more shots.
“She really, to me, this year has gone back into the type of tennis she played two years ago when she was top five in the world, but not number one,” she added.
Kerber though believes she is just going through a dip in form which is simply part of a near all-year-round sport.
“I don’t think you can play (all) one year on the top level, you always have ups and downs,” she said.
“I had it last year as well so I am not making a big deal out of it. I am still playing good and feeling good. You go out and play your best and the others have nothing to lose against you, that’s a new situation for me,” she said.
Should Kerber progress to the third round at Miami she will come up against 19-year-old Russian Daria Kasatikina 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 and that is the toughest thing and is what I am thinking about, I take it round by round,” she said.