SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Angelique Kerber is still be getting used to life as the world number one but a quick glance at the VIP boxes at the WTA Finals has given her a real sense of belonging.
Kerber won two grand slams in 2016 and has carried her best form into the elite eight-woman event in Singapore, beating Madison Keys 6-3 6-3 on Thursday to advance to the semi-finals with three round robin wins out of three.
The German’s latest victory was completed under the watchful gaze of some of the most famous names in the sport, including Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert and Monica Seles.
”You know, I looked over there just once and all the great legends and champions, they are sitting there,“ the 28-year-old Kerber told reporters. ”Of course it’s a great feeling that I‘m on court and they are watching me.
“Now I can say that I am one of those players that won grand slams and has been the number one player in the world. It was a really good feeling and I was really proud about what I have achieved in the last few years.”
Kerber usurped long-time number one Serena Williams, absent from Singapore through injury, when she won the U.S. Open in September, to add to the Australian Open title she won in January.
She dismissed criticism that she had only inherited the top spot due to the American’s relative inactivity, compared to the German’s heavy schedule.
“Every player has her own tournament schedule. Some like to play a lot of tournaments, a lot of matches, and others prefer to just prepare for the big ones,” Kerber said.
”I can only really talk about what my schedule is and I always like to play a lot of matches because it gives me much more confidence going into the big tournaments.
“I like to play tournaments and I really enjoy playing a lot. Yeah, that’s my schedule.”
Kerber topped the Red Group in Singapore and will face the winner of Friday’s White Group decider between defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska and big-hitting Czech Karolina Pliskova in Saturday’s semi-finals.
Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova, who won her first two matches, is already assured of top spot in the White Group.
Editing by Simon Cambers