On paper, world No.1 Angelique Kerber may not appear to have much in common with Australian wildcard Ash Barty at this week’s Brisbane International.
But top seed Kerber admitted she could empathise with world No.272 Barty after the young Australian returned from an off-court battle.
Barty “fell out of love” with tennis in 2014, citing the pressures and loneliness of life on the women’s tour.
In fact this time last year the former Wimbledon junior champion was playing cricket.
She featured in the 2015-16 Women’s Big Bash League for Brisbane Heat before picking up a racquet again in February.
Barty – just 20 – is primed for a full blown comeback in 2017 after receiving wildcards for Brisbane and the Australian Open.
Kerber said she could relate with Barty’s struggles with pressure on tour.
“Yes, of course and she’s right because the pressure is really tough,” Kerber said.
“And it’s really not so easy sometimes to deal with this.
“But you have to find a way to get used to it, to find how you can deal with this.”
Kerber finally conquered her mental demons with a breakthrough 2016.
The perennial grand slam quarter-finalist stepped up last year, claiming the Australian and US Open titles and dethroning Serena Williams as world No.1.
So what is Kerber’s secret?
“Sometimes it’s better to not read too much, to not listen to everybody,” she said.
“Just having what’s important, to have people around you to support and take care of you.
“That’s the most important thing when you are a professional athlete.”
Barty opens her Brisbane International campaign with a first round clash against qualifier Aleksandra Krunic of Serbia at Pat Rafter Arena on Monday night.
Kerber has a first-round bye.