Australian Open 2018: Angelique Kerber extends streak to 10 wins, Karoline Pliskova sails into 2nd round
Former champion Angelique Kerber continued her resurgent run with a 6-0, 6-4 win over Anna-Lena Friedsam to reach the second round of the Australian Open.
Melbourne: Former champion Angelique Kerber continued her resurgent run with a 6-0, 6-4 win over fellow German Anna-Lena Friedsam to reach the second round of the Australian Open.
Kerber raced through the first set in 17 minutes Tuesday but had her struggles in the second and was broken twice before converting her second match point and extending her streak to 10 consecutive wins.
She opened the year by winning four singles matches at the Hopman Cup, where Germany lost the final to Switzerland, and won the Sydney International last week for her first title since the 2016 US Open.
Kerber made her major breakthrough two years ago in Australia, where she beat Serena Williams in the final, and went on to reach the Wimbledon final and win the US Open in a year when she rose to No 1.
Her ranking slid into the 20s in 2017, but she's coming back into the kind of form which makes her a title contender at Melbourne Park. She and Maria Sharapova are the only former Australian Open champions in the women's draw.
"I'm just enjoying it on court again," Kerber said. "Something is going on with Australia and me. I love this country — I enjoy my stay, play my best tennis.
"The year starts good — I'm just hoping to continue this."
Kerber will celebrate her 30th birthday on Thursday, when she has a second-round match against either Nao Habino or Donna Vekic.
No 9 Johanna Konta beat Madison Brengle 6-3, 6-1, handing the US a 10th loss in 11 first-round women's matches.
The first-round upsets included Venus Williams, US Open champion Sloane Stephens and CoCo Vandeweghe, a semi-finalist at Melbourne and at the US Open last year.
"It's a testament to how many great first- and second-round matches we have," Konta said of the early upsets. "Shows how much depth we have in the women's game right now."
Konta will next meet Bernarda Pera, a lucky loser in the qualifying tournament who registered the second win by an American woman at the tournament when she beat Russian qualifier Anna Blinkova 6-2, 6-2.
No 20 Barbora Strycova's 6-1, 7-5 win over wild-card entry Kristie Ahn made it 2-12 for the US women with two yet to play. No 8 Caroline Garcia beat Carina Witthoft 7-5, 6-3 and No 29 Lucie Safarova defeated Ajla Tomljanovic 7-5, 6-3.
Pliskova glides past Cepede Royg
Former world number one Karolina Pliskova moved smoothly into the second round with a steady 6-3, 6-4 win over Veronica Cepede Royg.
The tall tattooed Czech number six seed was largely untroubled by her 80th-ranked opponent until serving for the match at 5-3 in the second set.
Pliskova squandered a match point as she was broken by Cepede Royg. But she made no mistake in the next game, breaking the Paraguayan to secure victory in one hour and 32 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.
"It got a little bit complicated at the end of the second set," admitted Pliskova, whose identical twin sister Kristyna, ranked 61, is also playing Tuesday.
Karolina made her first Grand Slam quarter-final in Australia last year.
"I think the first round is always the toughest for me," she said. "I'll take it match by match and I think I have a good chance."
The big-serving WTA Tour 2017 ace leader will also be US$700 lighter for the win after powering down seven service winners.
Pliskova announced on Twitter before the match that she would donate US$100 to a children's charity for each ace during the tournament.
She will have the chance to add to that in the second round on Thursday where she will face either Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil or Australian wildcard Lizette Cabrera.
With inputs from agencies
World number one Novak Djokovic said Tuesday that he was heading to the Australian Open to defend his title after being granted a medical exemption to play.
The unseeded world number 78 overcame a mid-match slump and treatment to her left leg to win 7-5, 1-6, 6-4 against Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich for her second-ever WTA Tour crown.
"I think the WTA, the whole organisation, they handled it really well. I'm really proud of them," Osaka said.