Kerber sees Tsurenko battle as crucial for Melbourne defence

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Angelique Kerber believes her tough opening-round encounter against Lesia Tsurenko can prove beneficial in her bid to defend the Australian Open.

The world number one returned to Rod Laver Arena to start the defence of a title that proved the launch pad for a standout 2016, in which she also captured the US Open and climbed to the top of the rankings.

Kerber was cruising at a set and a break up in the second, but was left reeling when, after failing to clinch match point at 5-4, Tsurenko fought back to force a decider.

However, the German regained her composure to clinch a 6-2 5-7 6-2 win and claimed the fact she had to tough it out will stand her in good stead in Melbourne.

"I think it's always good to have a match like this in the first few rounds," she said. 

"It's always tough for everybody to get the rhythm and to start the tournament, especially a grand slam, the first grand slam of the year.

"So, I think it was not so bad to have a match like that in the first round."

The encounter represented the first time Kerber has entered a grand slam as defending champion and world number one.

But she insists that did not add any extra pressure on court.

"No, actually I'm not thinking about this when I'm on court. I'm on court to play my tennis. My tennis is like it is, [about] moving good, playing a lot of balls back and fighting," she added.

"It's not changing because I'm the number one now or the top seeded. I mean, on court I'm really focusing on playing my game and running for every ball. 

"I was actually not panicking at all."