Top-ranked Kerber admits pressure on in Grand Slam defence

3 min

Melbourne (AFP)

Angelique Kerber admitted being world number one has piled on the pressure and said she is trying to shut out the noise as she attempts to defend a Grand Slam title for the first time at the Australian Open.

The German left-hander stunned Serena Williams in the Melbourne final last year and ultimately ended her 186-week stay on top of the rankings during a memorable season.

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

"I have much more things to do. That's changed," she said on Sunday.

"But I'm still trying to enjoying it. This is the part of being one of the best players. That was always the goal, so I'm trying to living it now."

"It's a new challenge for me, that's for sure," she added.

"But at the end, I'm still the same. I'm still doing the same things. I'm not thinking too much that I'm top-seeded now. When I'm thinking like this, the pressure is much higher."

Kerber opens her title defence with a first-round clash against Ukraine's Lesia Tsurenko on Rod Laver Arena on Monday, and faces the prospect of a potential quarter-final with French Open winner Garbine Muguruza.

It is feasible Kerber could lose her number one ranking to Williams in Melbourne, and she is taking nothing for granted.

- Turning point -

Last year she was match point down in the first round against Japan's Misaki Doi, and admitted coming through that scare proved to be a significant moment in her career.

"I think, yeah, it was the important point for my career. You never know if I lost the match what might happen," she said, adding that it had taught her she must be on top of her game right from the start.

"I have to be ready from the first round again. I will try to not put too much expectation and pressure on myself. I will try to do it like last year. That was the way I had my success. I will try to continue that this year again."

Kerber has not had a good start to 2017, falling to Ukraine's Elina Svitolina in the Brisbane International quarter-finals, then slumping out in round two of the Sydney International to Russian teenager Darya Kasatkina.

She struggled to find her rhythm and her usually strong forehand was often astray, but the 28-year-old has been working hard on the Melbourne Park practice courts and she is quietly confident.

"I think every tournament starts from zero," she said.

"I'm feeling good. I was practising good in the last few days here. Also my pre-season was very tough. So I hope that I can make the transition on the match courts here.

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