New York: Angelique Kerber is more than ready to face whatever challenges her new status as world number one and double Grand Slam champion bring.
Kerber's US Open triumph over Karolina Pliskova on Saturday made her just the second woman, after China's Li Na, to win her first two Grand Slam titles after celebrating her 28th birthday.
The German, who also won the Australian Open in January, will also be the oldest player to debut at world number one when her place atop the summit is made official on Monday.
"I was always dreaming of one day being number one and to be in the Grand Slams," she said. "I'm not 18, so I was always trying to improving my game.
"I knew that I have the game to beat the best players and now to see that the work pays off, this is actually the best feeling."
Kerber, first introduced to tennis at the age of three, said she wasn't sorry her breakthrough to the most elite ranks has come so late.
She said at 28 she's better equipped to cope with the demands of the number one ranking than she would have been earlier in her career.
She had already had a taste of the raised expectations as she edged closer to toppling Serena Williams from the summit.
"How I was dealing with the pressure when I came here and everybody was asking me about the number one, this is what I was trying to improve," said Kerber, who was denied in her first bid to supplant Williams when she lost to Pliskova in the Cincinnati final before the US Open.
But the mental strength she's tried to cultivate was there when she needed it on Saturday.
"It's always tough going in the final when I know the opponent beat me two or three weeks ago," she said.
"That was also a challenge. I told myself, 'OK, I will do everything on court today to win the match against Karolina."
Her growing confidence is based not only on results like her Melbourne triumph and her run to the Wimbledon final but on the work she's put in on her fitness and her game.
She's made a concerted effort to be more aggressive in matches, finally transferring a more attacking style from the practice court to competition.
"It was just the next step to beat the best players," she said.
While Li, who was 29 when she won the 2011 French Open, bowed out in a 2014 season that saw her win the Australian Open, Kerber indicated she is just getting started.
"I think I'm ready to have this pressure on my shoulder," she said.
"Being number one of course now everybody will try to beat me and have nothing to lose.
"But I was always practicing and working hard to be number one. Now I can take the next step and try to stay as long as I can there."
Published Date: Sep 11, 2016 09:46 am | Updated Date: Sep 11, 2016 09:46 am