‘I don’t have any pressure’: Kerber to play free after lockdown

  • Dan Imhoff

Acceptance of a situation beyond control comes easier with age, as former world No.1 Angelique Kerber attests.

When the Australian Open 2016 titlist learned she was required to enter hard quarantine upon her arrival in Melbourne, the 33-year-old put it in perspective in typical no-nonsense fashion, and began the countdown.

The eighth seed for the Grampians Trophy even found a silver lining.

If quarantine was a leveller for all players, hard lockdown only eased any expectations leading into her 52nd major campaign.

MORE: WTA Grampians Trophy draw

“For sure I don't have any pressure right now … I was prepared really good. I practised a lot, but now I took my pressure out, my expectation, everything,” a relaxed Kerber said.

“Of course it was not the plan, how I planned the trip to Australia. On the other side, I can just try to do the best now. I can enjoy the sport even more than before, I think. I will really put my pressure out and just try to play as good as I can in this tournament.”

That’s not to say the German was keen to give herself a break from training.

Five minutes after being released from hard quarantine at midnight last Friday, she was photographed practising at the National Tennis Centre under lights.

It was her first taste of freedom in Melbourne, still a concept she found difficult to grasp, having come from pandemic-ravaged Europe.

“I mean, the first few hours and the first day was really, really strange because, of course, you are sitting in the room and you know the situation, how it is in Europe, where you came from,” Kerber said.

“Now you are out, you can go to restaurants, bars, coffee shops. Everything is open. It feels really like one year ago. It's such a great feeling again.

“Of course, I'm so looking forward to play again in front of the crowds, in front of the fans. This is also the motivation I have. That's why I'm here – to play again in front of the fans. That's why, yeah, I was practising a lot the last few weeks (before arriving).”

“Everything is open. It feels really like one year ago. It's such a great feeling again.”
Angelique Kerber

Kerber is one of four Grand Slam champions alongside Victoria Azarenka, Sloane Stephens and Svetlana Kuznetsova in the Grampians Trophy draw, following top seed Bianca Andreescu’s withdrawal on Tuesday.

She will begin her campaign against Czech Katerina Siniakova on Thursday, a player she holds a 3-1 head-to-head record against.

Azarenka has a first-round bye, while Stephens opens against Canadian teenager Leylah Fernandez.

Stephens is one of four major winners in the Grampians Trophy draw

Kuznetsova faces seventh-seeded American Jennifer Brady first up.

Brady, who reached her maiden US Open semifinal last season, has already had her first hit-out in the Yarra Valley Classic doubles draw, partnering Australia’s Ashleigh Barty to a first-round win.

“Honestly, coming out of [quarantine], I feel fresh mentally, motivated, ready to compete,” Brady said.

“I think I'm using this first tournament as kind of like a platform to just kick-start the AO, just get used to the courts, the balls, conditions. It's nice to play a tournament before a Grand Slam at the same venue.”