Ashleigh Barty has tipped her Sydney International conqueror Angelique Kerber as a serious Australian Open contender.
The 2016 Australian Open champion and former No. 1-ranked Kerber won four singles matches at the Hopman Cup in Perth, Western Australia last week, helping Germany reach the final against Switzerland, and followed up with five wins in Sydney. "It's nice to make a final at home, but I think in my eyes it's ideal preparation for next week (Australian Open)", Barty said after her win.
Kerber, who began last year as No.1 before finishing at No.22, continued her 2018 resurgence and remains unbeaten this year.
"I played good tennis", Kerber said. She further added, "There is nothing better than playing at home, playing in front of a home crowd".
'It feels very good to win my first title in my first tournament this year.
"I am playing fantastic tennis again and feeling just great, " Kerber said. The German would ultimately take their match in three sets, cruising through the final two sets against the American.
"I certainly shot myself in the foot with my serve today", she said.
When asked her opinion on Sharapova returning to the Australian Open earlier this week, Kerber was only willing to offer: "She's back and she played not bad in the last few weeks". Regardless whether you're No.1, No.10, or 100 in the world, it's the best feeling for an Australian to be playing at the Australian Open.
She had already beaten Olivia Rogowska in the first round and former U.S. Open champion Sam Stosur in the second and advanced to the semi-finals after Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza withdrew with a hip injury.
"I think there is that mutual respect, which is wonderful to get respect from such a champion like Angie".
"I felt like it was a pretty good level, to be honest".
Barty was gracious in defeat during the presentation ceremony, saying: "It's wonderful to see Angie back playing at her best".
Barty praised Kerber as a player who "makes you work so hard for each point". I feel like if I play like that, I'll probably beat most of the people in the draw.
Barty also looks to have set herself for a deep run at the Australian Open, after making the third round of the tournament previous year.
"But we will head to Melbourne tonight and do what we need to do over the next couple of days to get ready".