Stars align for Kerber in ascent to top spot

Thu Oct 20, 2016 4:53am EDT
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By Patrick Johnston

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Angelique Kerber is the world number one in women's tennis yet it remains a title she has yet to grow accustomed to after her meteoric rise to the summit.

Still a relatively new experience, the 28-year-old German reached the peak of the women's game last month after landing her second grand slam title of the year at the U.S. Open, capping a stunning season for the left-hander from Bremen.

Kerber floated around the lower echelons of the top 10 for the last four years and did not even make the second week of a grand slam in 2015, but it all clicked in January.

A run to the final in Brisbane preceded a surprise upset win over Serena Williams to land the Australian Open title as the baseliner renowned for her strong defensive game finally realized her talent.

"All the experience from the last few years came together this year. The belief in myself, I've grown up a little bit more this year," she told Reuters of her new-found maturity.

"The victory in Australia, of course it's great, I continued it the last few months and I'm here now as the best player of the year... and the world actually," she added, chuckling as she corrected herself.

Kerber is guaranteed the year-end number one ranking after Williams pulled out of the $7 million season-ending WTA Finals in Singapore, which starts on Sunday, with a shoulder injury.

Kerber said she would "miss" the 22-times grand slam singles champion but did not offer a similar sentiment for Russia's Maria Sharapova, who is scheduled to return to the circuit in April after her 15-month doping ban expires.   Continued...

World number one tennis player Angelique Kerber of Germany poses during an interview in Singapore October 20, 2016. REUTERS/Patrick Johnston