<
>

Angelique Kerber and the weight of expectation

play
Kerber feeling off-court pressure after Aussie win (1:09)

Angelique Kerber reacts to losing in the second round at Indian Wells and talks about the pressures of winning the Australian Open. (1:09)

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- After upsetting Serena Williams in January's Australian Open to win her first major championship, Angelique Kerber was unable to bring the trophy back with her from Melbourne because it was "too heavy and too big." The trophy was eventually shipped to her home, but she is finding that being a Grand Slam champion also means lugging around pressure that can feel equally heavy.

And unlike the trophy, you can't simply tell someone to take that pressure and carry it for you.

After receiving a first-round bye here at the BNP Paribas Open, Kerber dropped her first match at Indian Wells on Saturday, losing in straight sets 7-5, 7-5 to No. 64 Denisa Allertova. It was the second consecutive tournament in which Kerber lost her match in straight sets. Saisai Zheng beat the German 7-5, 6-1 in Doha last month.

Aside from Fed Cup play, Kerber, who rose to No. 2 in the world after beating Serena, has not won a set since Melbourne.

"The pressure is much different than it was a few months ago," Kerber said. "It's a completely new situation for me. But I'm trying to get used to it. That's one [more] tournament I lost now in the first round, but still, I have tournaments to go. I will try to learn from this experience, this match, and try to get better in the next weeks."

Kerber's left leg, which was wrapped Saturday, has been bothering her the past few days. She also noted it worsened as the match progressed.

"It's not the excuse [as to why] why I lost the match," she conceded.

But perhaps her busy schedule is. Winning Australia has added a lot of activity to her schedule, from increased media attention and WTA appearances to sponsorship deals.

"It's much more different because I have much more things to do off court," she said. "I'm here one week, and it was a busy week for me."

Kerber wouldn't change anything though, despite her recent poor performances.

"That's one thing I was dreaming my whole career and I reached it. I won a Grand Slam," she said. "Of course, the year is still long, and there are so many tournaments. In tennis you have every week the chance to get a new challenge. If you lose first round or like early in the tournament, you have the chance next week to make it better. It's a new situation and new experience.

"I will try to do a little bit less [off-court] now I think."

Kerber reached the Indian Wells semifinals in 2012 and 2013 but now has lost her first match here the past three seasons. After last year's defeat, she went up to Las Vegas to hit with her idol, Steffi Graf, a confidence-boosting exercise that helped Kerber reach her full potential. As of Saturday, she wasn't sure whether she will practice with Graf again before the start of the Miami Open in two weeks.

The Australian Open trophy resides in Kerber's living room, where she was able to see it for exactly one day before hitting the road again. As proud as she is of it, Kerber, understandably, wants more.

"I can still say it feels good," Kerber said of being a Grand Slam champion. "But, of course, I must now try practicing again hard, trying to looking now forward and to stay in the moment, being now prepared for everything which is coming.