Former World No.1 Chris Evert discussed how Angelique Kerber can cope with the pressures of holding the World No.1 ranking again as she heads into the Miami Open as top seed.
Stephanie Livaudais
March 13, 2017

MIAMI, FL, USA - Newly-minted World No.1 Angelique Kerber has officially reclaimed her spot at the top of the WTA rankings on Monday, a day before the Miami Open kicks off and where she'll also be the No.1 seed for the first time.

But the big question for former World No.1 Chrissie Evert is how Kerber will cope with the pressures of having the target on her back once again.

Kerber is still searching for her first title of 2017 after falling in the fourth round of Indian Wells to eventual champion Elena Vesnina. The German went into the match leading 4-1 in their head-to-head record, but started off flat and allowed Vesnina to dictate the rallies, a contrast to the game she showed during her run to two Grand Slam titles last year.

She's also yet to defeat a Top 20 player in 2017, falling to Elina Svitolina twice (Brisbane, No.14; Dubai, No.13) and later Vesnina (No.15).

Angelique Kerber, Elena Vesnina

"For me it's nothing really to do with the physicality of her game," Evert said in an ESPN phone call. "It's not that the game is not there, the same game that she won the Australian Open with and the US Open with.

"I think it's all in her head, and it is a big adjustment to have that No.1 bullseye on your back and to continue to play with the fearlessness that it took for her to get there. She went out of the box in big matches that she won last year; she took more chances. She played more fearless tennis. She went for more shots. She went for bigger serves. She went for bigger second serves.

"She really, to me, this year has gone back into the type of tennis she played two years ago when she was Top 5 in the world, but not No.1."

Evert drew a comparison between Kerber and the resurgent Caroline Wozniacki - who's added a bit more aggression to her counterpunching game to help her climb back on top following an injury-riddled 2016 season and consecutive slide down the rankings.

Chris Evert

"She has to do what Wozniacki is trying to do now: taking a few more risks and being a little more aggressive," Evert explained. "Those two, I see their games similar as far as their unbelievable defense and counterpunching, and it goes against their nature to really wind up and to attack right from the start. But they've got to learn to do that a little bit more."

Evert, who was the year-ending World No.1 singles player in 1974-1978 and 1980-1981 and held on to the ranking for a total of 260 weeks, had some words of advice for what it would take for the German to regain her fearlessness.

"[Kerber] has to get back that aggressive mentality, and she's got to really force it on herself because she's not going to be No. 1 until she plays like she did at the US Open and like she did in Australia.

"The tennis is there, but she's got to get back into that frame of mind, and she's got to work on that. Only she can do it. You can listen to a thousand people or the best coaches in the world, but only she has to come to terms with that."

- Photos courtesy of Getty Images