However, she impressed in Sydney, beating the likes of Lucie Safarova, Venus Williams, Dominika Cibulkova and Camila Giorgi before edging out home favourite Barty 6-4 6-4 in the final.
Now it's happened, and it's not so easy, actually, to really get used to it-to wake up every morning and tell myself, "Okay, you really are now the no. 1 player in the world". Barty defeated Kerber in their previous meeting two months ago in China. "I think even though it may not be flawless at the moment, it's still good enough to win matches". But I'm feeling good - I'm healthy.
Making the final in Sydney ensures Barty will carry the heaviest expectation at next week's Australian Open, which she enters as Australia's highest-ranked female.
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Barty, 21, reeled off straight sets wins against Veronica Cepede Royg, Ellen Perez and Barbora Strycova this week before rallying against her coffee buddy Gavrilova. Kerber on form deserves favouritism but Barty should be backed by a strong home crowd and that will give her confidence.
Formidably, world No.1 Simona Halep could await in the fourth round.
"It's nice to make a final at home, but I think in my eyes it's ideal preparation for next week", said Barty, the first Australian woman in a Sydney final since Alicia Molik defeated Sam Stosur in 2005. "It's nice to be able to get a lot of matches here and be rewarded with the final".
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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".
"You know, I feel like if I play like that I'll probably beat most of the people in the draw".
The German made her breakthrough in 2016, with wins at the Australian Open and Flushing Meadows, but struggled a year ago, falling to 22nd in the world.
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"We have set up a flawless platform for me to work with this year to try and go deep in tournaments, whether it's in Australia or in Europe or in the States".