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Kerber to fly free at Australian Open

AAP logoAAP 12/01/2017 Ben McKay

World No.1 Angelique Kerber's grand slam breakthrough came in the Australian Open final last year but the sliding doors moment came two weeks earlier.

On the second day of the 2016 tournament, which Kerber sensationally claimed in a classic final over Serena Williams, the German stared down a spirited challenge by Japan's Misaki Doi.

Doi held a match point in the second set before Kerber eventually seized control of the third set, winning 6-7 (4-7) 7-6 (8-6) 6-3.

In Melbourne on Thursday, Kerber claimed the recovery from the brink of elimination set up her tournament, and her year.

The comeback win also gives her a path to follow this season.

"I still think back about this match," she said in Melbourne on Thursday.

"I was match point down. After this match I had no expectation at all, feeling free, I was playing good tennis and enjoying every single match here.

"I have to go back again to this feeling. To have no expectations, going out there and playing match by match, enjoying the feeling and being where I am right now."

Feeling free might come a little bit harder for the 28-year-old at Melbourne Park this year.

Having dethroned Serena Williams to claim the mantle of the world's best player, Kerber has found herself swamped with interest.

And pressure.

Perhaps that was on show at the Brisbane International, where Kerber dropped a set to Australian comeback kid Ashleigh Barty before losing her second match to world No.14 Elina Svitolina.

John McEnroe became the latest pundit to predict Kerber's fall from world No.1.

The likeable German admitted feeling the weight of expectation - both external and of her own doing - but shrugged off any criticism.

"Of course I'm feeling it," she said, "the pressure is for sure a little bit higher than last year."

"I have much more things to do this year than 12 months ago.

"But I'm getting used to it from the last few months.

"I have a lot of confidence. I know how to win grand slams now and I've got a lot of experience from the last months.

"I have had a great preparation and I'm looking forward to starting."

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