NEW YORK: With a third Grand Slam final of the year on the horizon, Angelique Kerber couldn’t afford to lose her focus despite realizing her once only dreamed-of rise to world No.1.
She couldn’t help but keep one eye on Karolina Pliskova’s stunning US Open semifinals victory over Serena Williams — which assured Kerber would gain the ranking she’s been inching toward for weeks.
But the 28-year-old German knew she couldn’t afford to celebrate just yet.
“I watched especially the last few points,” she said of Pliskova’s two-set triumph over Williams.
“It was not so easy to go then on court, because I knew it actually before that if Serena lost, of course, that I will be the No.1.
“So it was not so easy mentally, but I was trying to, again, not put too much pressure on myself.”
Twenty minutes after reaching the summit of her sport, Kerber took on former world No.1 Caroline Wozniacki, overpowering the two-time US Open finalist 6-4, 6-3.
“That shows me also that I think I’m growing and I’m not putting the pressure on my shoulders if something like this happens,” Kerber said.
“I can go out there focusing on my game. That gives me also a lot of confidence with the situation, how I deal with it today.”
Kerber’s spent much of the year learning to manage success.
After finishing 2015 ranked 10th in the world, with only one Grand Slam semi-final appearance behind her, she shocked Williams in the Australian Open final.
A period of adjustment followed, with opening match defeats in Madrid, Rome and Paris.
But she was back in the championship match again at Wimbledon, where Williams avenged her Melbourne defeat with a straight-sets victory.
“When I won my first Grand Slam in Australia and we came back I had much more confidence. I had much more belief in my game.
“Then I was just trying to get used to this pressure, all the stuff that happened after Australia.
“I don’t know if I was like prepared for this, but I think I played amazing year. I mean, it’s my third Grand Slam final now in one year, so I just try to enjoy it.”