Angelique Kerber has big ambitions to be more than another piece of roadkill on Serena Williams’ seemingly inevitable journey to sporting immortality.
The power-packed left-hander enters Saturday night’s Australian Open final standing in the way of Williams equalling Steffi Graf’s record of 22 Open-era grand slam singles titles.
Kerber not only feels a sense of duty to protect her fellow German’s modern-day benchmark major haul, but also a responsibility to deliver on the biggest opportunity of her life.
“I must play my best I can play,” Kerber said on the eve of her first grand slam final at Melbourne Park.
“I mean, Serena played very great here. I saw the match against (Agnieszka Radwanska) yesterday. She will go out there to win her next grand slam. I must be ready to take the challenge to play against the best player right now.
“She’s the world No.1. She’s the champion. She’s won everything.
“But I have actually nothing to lose. I will go out there to try to challenge her, playing good tennis. I know that I won against her once, so I can beat her.”
Win or lose, Kerber will depart Melbourne as a top-five player – and world No.2 if she can become the first player since Samantha Stosur in New York in 2011 to conquer the American in a grand slam final.
But the 28-year-old already believes she belongs among the elite, Kerber nominating her deflating loss to Lucie Safarova last November that cost her a place in the season-ending championships as the turning point in a career until this season undermined by mental fragility.
“That changed also a lot because I was telling myself after this that I will never let the pressure again win against me,” Kerber said.
“I had a lot of challenges here also in this tournament where I was really nervous.
“I was thinking about this match and what’s happened there.”
Kerber has been free-rolling ever since saving a match point in her first-round win over Misaki Doi.
The seventh seed reversed her loss to Victoria Azarenka in the season-opening Brisbane International to take out the two-time Open champion in a quarter-final boilover en route to the championship match.
“I feel very comfortable,” Kerber said.
“I’m happy. I have a lot of confidence.”