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Prudential Hong Kong Tennis Open

by SCMP

Prudential Hong Kong Tennis Open 2016

‘Late bloomer’ Angelique Kerber determined to enjoy her moment in the sun at Hong Kong Open

World number one feeling under no pressure as a career-best season draws to a close despite a tough Asia swing

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 October, 2016, 9:25pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 October, 2016, 12:29am

A patch of turbulent form on the season-ending Asia swing, the looming spectre of a fallen world number one, even a groaning leg injury as an extraordinary season starts to take its inevitable toll on her body; none of it is enough to dampen Angelique Kerber’s moment in the sun.

As she talks about an incredible campaign that has seen her win two grand slams and an Olympic silver medal as well as securing number one spot in the world rankings bringing an end to 186 weeks of Serena Williams dominance, she struggles to keep a smile from her face.

“I was always telling myself that the day would come some day without pressure,” said the German, who is competing in the Prudential Hong Kong Open. “To be the next number one after Serena is great but for sure she will come back and I think right now I will just try to enjoy it.”

As she posted photographs on social media of her preparing for a Friday night out in Hong Kong – a tournament she said she “really loves” – followed by a Saturday spent exploring the city’s sights, it’s easy to conclude that she truly is enjoying her moment.

Watch: Angelique Kerber talks about the secrets of her success

Perhaps that’s because she has worked so hard for it. At 28 she is the oldest woman in history to reach the rankings summit for the first time.

Her quantum leap from a steady top-10 regular to a two-time grand slam champion and world number one has led some to label her a “late bloomer”. That’s an epithet she has no problem with.

Casual night out in #Hongkong! Heading out for dinner after an other #travelday! Happy to be back

A photo posted by Angelique Kerber (@angie.kerber) on Oct 7, 2016 at 7:31am PDT

“I think its better late than never! Right now at 28 I think I can enjoy it more than maybe a few years ago because I have a lot more experience. A lot of things changed and right now I’m at the age when I can enjoy it more. This is what makes the age issue more special for me.”

Despite Williams declaring after the US Open that her only remaining engagement this year would be the end of season WTA Finals in Singapore, Kerber’s struggles so far in Asia have the left the door open for the American great to reclaim the number one spot.

A potential meeting between the two in Singapore could become a straight shoot-out for the coveted end of year world’s best ranking. But that’s not something that Kerber is too concerned about for now.

“It is important to me [to end the year on top of the rankings] but I won’t put too much pressure on myself,” said Kerber. “I have two more tournaments. We will see in a few weeks what the end ranking will be.”

With the climax to the best year of her career fast approaching, is she looking forward to ending what has been a hectic season for her?

“It’s the last trip of the season,” said Kerber. “You have to give everything that’s left. But you are a little bit tired because you have travelled around the world for the last few months so you have in your mind, ‘a few more weeks and you can go for vacation’. The end is always the nicest part of the year.”

The minor leg injury she sustained in Beijing last week feels better and she is confident she will be at her best for her opening match this week.

“There are still a few months left for this year and I will try to enjoy every single day of what’s left. I’m enjoying this special year for me.” The grin on her face confirms it.