Everything changed for Angelique Kerber in 2016.
Everything, that is, except the world No.1 herself, she insists.
Kerber admitted she used her off-season break to try to “believe” last year’s meteoric rise.
The German late bloomer not only won the 2016 Australian and US grand slams, but ended Serena Williams’ record-equalling 186 straight weeks as the world’s top-ranked player.
At 28, Kerber became the oldest player to top the women’s rankings.
Then came the big money endorsements.
It’s enough to do anyone’s head in.
But thanks to a little help from her friends, the German maintains the same old Kerber will kick off her 2017 campaign at this week’s Brisbane International.
“I needed time to reflect and believe everything that had happened the last 12 months – so much changed,” Kerber said in Brisbane.
“(But) I have a great team and family around me – they are still normal to me.
“They are treating me like I was before No.1 and when I lost a lot of matches.
“That’s important – to stay like I am. I don’t think I have changed too much.”
Kerber will hope to produce her top form after returning to where it all began last year – Brisbane.
The German – then ranked No.10 – made the Brisbane International final before going one better at the Australian Open, upsetting Williams to claim her maiden grand slam.
Suddenly, Kerber has gone from the hunter to the hunted in 2017.
But, Kerber said her new-found success had helped her “live my dream”.
“It’s a new feeling. Of course, there’s pressure there but it is a different pressure,” Kerber said of her 2017 challenge.
“There will be a lot of challenges now but I think I am ready.
“This is the next step. But it’s nice. I am still enjoying it – now I can live my dream.”
Kerber said she would mix up her schedule this year with a focus on the grand slams.
“I will try to have a bit more time between tournaments, really focusing on the big tournaments,” she said.
“I am changing it a little bit because this year it is important that I be ready for the big tournaments.
“(But) to be honest, I am not thinking about defending points or pressure or whatever.
“I am just really happy to be back in Australia.
“Everything started here for me last year.”
Kerber has a first-round bye at the Brisbane International and faces a qualifier or Australian wildcard Ash Barty in the second.