Kerber aims to confirm top placing
Angelique Kerber starts the new tennis season in Brisbane from Sunday onwards with the aim of proving that her rise to fifth place in the world rankings is no fluke.
"I am not afraid of being chased," she told dpa in an interview ahead of her departure for Australia on Boxing Day. "It won't be an easy year, but I am out to prove that I can do even better."
Kerber made a first big impression by reaching the US Open semifinals in 2011, after having major doubts about her game earlier that year and even toying with retirement after a string of first-round defeats.
She finished 2011 in 32nd place before her 20123 breakthrough: winning her first two Tour titles in Paris and Copenhagen, reaching the Wimbledon semis and US Open quarters, and becoming the first German since Steffi Graf and Anke Huber to make the top five.
Coming second behind biathlete Magdalena Neuner in the German Sportswoman of the Year poll showed that Kerber's achievements are now well recognised in the country.
"Of course it is a big honour to come second in such a poll. It makes you proud because there are so many great athletes in Germany," Kerber said.
However, she will not rest on her laurels as the leftie seeks to further improve her game, ranging from the serve to overall fitness, in order to remain among the elite players.
The 24-year-old took less than three weeks after the season-ending WTA Championships in October.
A relaxing week in the Maledives was followed by a slow start in her second home country of Poland (Kerber has a German mother and Polish father) and a fortnight of intensive training in Offenbach.
More training in her northern German home town of Kiel and Christmas with the family in Poland were the final stops before her departure to Australia.
Kerber readily admits that she would have preferred an additional week without tennis, but believes that she has recharged her batteries well and is ready for the new season.
The tournaments in Brisbane and Sydney are followed by the first season highlight, the Australian Open Grand Slam in the second half of January which along with Wimbledon is her favourite major.
"The Australian Open have always been my favourite grand slam. The weather is good and the people are very friendly. And Wimbledon just has this great tradition," she said.
Kerber has never gone beyond the third round in Melbourne and will not put pressure on herself this time around because she has learnt from the past.
"I am not the person to go to a tournament and put pressure on myself that I have to win this thing. That's not me, and it would be to no avail. So many things can happen at a grand slam," she said.
"It was a problem in the past, so I know what it is like when I put too much pressure on myself. I might as well stay at home then."
Kerber insists she is neither looking at Grand Slam trophies not the world No 1 ranking as she starts what she names "a confirmation year."
"The most important thing for me is to get the best out of myself. The year has been good when I can sit at home in December 2013 and say that I gave it all. Regardless whether I am ranked first then, fifth, 10th, 30th or 100th," she said.