MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Angelique Kerber’s sudden emergence as a grand slam champion is an inspiration to the other players who are regulars in the top 10 but have yet to bag one of the major prizes, Agnieszka Radwanska said on Saturday.
The German had enjoyed marginal grand slam success with a couple of semi-final appearances to her name over a nine-year span before she stunned the world and Serena Williams to capture the Australian Open crown last year.
The 28-year-old opens her Melbourne Park title defence as world number one this week having proved last year’s triumph was no fluke by also claiming the U.S. Open title and reaching the Wimbledon final.
“I think this is big inspiration for everyone,” Radwanska, third seed at Melbourne Park, said on Saturday.
”Winning two grand slams the same year, other couple big finals. That’s for sure something amazing.
“She really played unbelievable tennis whole season. She just proved that she can do it. I mean, two grand slams just from pretty much nowhere.”
Radwanska, who has enjoyed an intense rivalry with Kerber, has reached one major final over her decade-long career, losing the 2012 Wimbledon title decider to Williams.
Simona Halep, the Romanian fourth seed, has also played and lost a solitary grand slam final, as has Slovakian sixth seed Dominika Cibulkova, who was runner-up in Melbourne to Li Na in 2014 but arrives this year as the WTA Finals champion.
Karolina Pliskova joined the club last September when she lost to Kerber at the U.S. Open, the first time she had got past the third round at a grand slam.
The 24-year-old big-serving Czech broke into the top five in the world on the back of her Flushing Meadows run and clinched her seventh career title in Brisbane two weeks ago.
Her dominant form in the most prestigious Australian Open warm-up had some local media tipping her for a maiden grand slam crown in 2017 but she was reluctant to claim a place among the contenders at Melbourne Park.
“I would definitely not take me as a favourite of this tournament. It’s a big draw,” the 2010 Australian Open junior champion said.
”There is still, I think, many more players better than me. I guess everyone is in shape and everyone is excited to play this grand slam.
“Everyone was working hard in the off-season, so it’s tough to say. We will just see after few rounds here.”
Garbine Muguruza had also played and lost her maiden grand slam final before she exacted revenge on Williams in her second trip to a major title decider to secure the Roland Garros title last June.
The seventh seed retired from her semi-final at the Brisbane event with a thigh injury after a couple of long three-setters in earlier rounds but said she would be raring to go against Marina Erakovic in the opening round.
“I had enough off days to prepare. I think it took me long than I thought to recover from those matches,” the Spaniard said. “But, yeah, I feel good. I’ve been training here for the past three days. Yeah, I feel ready.”
Writing by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney; Editing by John O'Brien