Looking back, Angelique Kerber did not start her 2016 Australian Open well, finding herself a point away from losing her first round match against world No. 64 Misaki Doi.
Still, the German raised her first Grand Slam trophy less than two weeks later by virtue of a three-set upset over top-seeded Serena Williams.
She enters the 2017 Australian Open not only a two-time major winner, but also the world No. 1.
“I had to get a little bit time to really reflect,” Kerber said in Brisbane last week (where she reached the quarterfinals). “I'm still enjoying it, and [it] just was always my dream, and now I can live my dream.”
The 28-year-old had never previously reached a Grand Slam final before her run in Melbourne. All of a sudden the sixth-ranked player in the world shot up to No. 2, and she has not been ranked lower than No. 3 since.
But her breakthrough year was not all smooth sailing. Kerber lost in the first round at her final two warm-up tournaments before the French Open. In Paris her results were no better, as the left-hander lost in the first round to world No. 58 Kiki Bertens.
It was around that time that people began wondering, had Kerber reached her peak and was she a one-Slam wonder?
The German answered any doubts by cruising to the Wimbledon final without dropping a set. There she faced Williams again, who was too good at the All England Club and captured her 22nd Grand Slam.
“After this amazing two weeks, I just can say that I give everything,” Kerber said after the loss. “Of course, I'm disappointed. But at the end I'm also proud about that what I did.”
Kerber may have lost to Williams, but she maintained her momentum far better by claiming the singles silver medal in Rio. She then reached the Cincinnati final, before capturing her second major crown at the US Open in a tough three-setter over Karolina Pliskova (her Cincinnati conqueror).
It didn’t hurt to leave New York on top of the rankings for the first time, either.
If that wasn’t enough, Kerber closed it all out with a championship match appearance at the WTA Finals in Singapore (falling to a red hot Dominika Cibulkova).
Kerber was undoubtedly the best player on the WTA Tour in 2016, taking home WTA Player of the Year accolades, but she heads to Melbourne this year with an even greater challenge—defending those efforts.
Any draw featuring Williams is a tough one to win, and the hard-hitting Pliskova looks primed to make another deep major run after winning Brisbane. Cibulkova will also be looking to replicate her Singapore success on a major stage.
Kerber should make her way deep into the second week, but winning the whole thing back-to-back in Melbourne will be a tough ask.