Former world No.1 Angelique Kerber hopes to keep partying like it’s 2016 when she meets Venus Williams for a second-round centre-court dance in Sydney.
The very fact Kerber will face the Sydney International top seed so early in the tournament is reflective of just how far she fell in 2017, and why she’s so eager to forget it ever happened.
Two years ago, the German with the fearsome forehand won the Australian Open – her first Grand Slam triumph – before also claiming the US Open and finishing a remarkable 2016 ranked No.1 in the world.
The following season could not have been more different. Kerber didn’t win a single title, suffered early exits at all four majors and fell outside the top 20 following a long list of disappointing performances.
She’s still world No.22, but 2018 is so far panning out in markedly more positive fashion thanks to a summer winning streak of five matches.
The 29-year-old brought her unbeaten Hopman Cup singles form from Perth to Sydney on Monday, fighting back from a set down and saving two match points to see off Lucie Safarova in the first round.
She was optimistic the early season renaissance was a sign of things to come.
“I say goodbye to 2017, for sure,” Kerber said.
“I really try to forget the year and start from zero, and just play like I played (in the) years before 2017.
“I’m starting 2018 with a completely new mind and just going for it.”
She’ll have to, given world No.5 Williams awaits on Ken Rosewall Arena later on Tuesday.
The pair last faced off in March 2017, when Williams beat then top-ranked Kerber 7-5 6-3 in the quarterfinals of Miami.
The American seven-time Grand Slam champion is yet to play a match this year but Kerber still expected her to be ready for the important Melbourne Park tune-up.
Williams, who turns 38 in June, was only beaten to last year’s Australian Open title by sister Serena and is looking to go one better and become the oldest major winner in history.
“I’m just expecting a really tough match again,” Kerber said.
“It’s just another match before Melbourne, and I will just try to go out there, try to play good tennis again and beat her.
“But she played some amazing tennis last year. She had a lot of confidence. She’s always strong, especially here. I think she’s feeling good here.
“It will be an intense match from both of us.”
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