AUSTRALIAN OPEN: Angelique Kerber Survives Scare Against Witthoeft
World number one Angelique Kerber survived an onslaught from fellow German Carina Witthoeft in a tight three-set match against to advance to the Australian Open third round.
Kerber – top seed at a Grand Slam for the first time – struggled with her serve in a second-set tie-break before prevailing 6-2 6-7 (3-7) 6-2.
Witthoeft had levelled the match at one set apiece in hot conditions on Rod Laver Arena before Kerber, on her 29th birthday, was forced to call on her experience to triumph 6-2, 6-7 (3-7), 6-2 in two hours and eight minutes.
Kerber squandered a 2-0 lead in the second set, as her plucky 21-year-old compatriot swung hard at every ball and the champion’s serve crumbled in the tiebreak.
But after being broken in the opening game of the decider, Kerber rallied to 4-1 before closing out the tussle to set up a match against Irina-Camelia Begu or Kristyna Pliskova.
The result continued an unconvincing start to the tournament for Kerber, who struggled during a three-set win over Lesia Tsurenko in the opening round on Monday.
Kerber, who stunned Serena Williams in last year’s final at Melbourne Park to lift the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup, was a shock loser in her opening match of the Sydney International against Russian teenager Daria Kasatkina last week.
A win in the third round for Kerber, who also claimed the US Open last year, could set up a potential match-up with 2014 Australian Open semi-finalist Eugenie Bouchard in the last 16.
Earlier on day three, a straight-sets victory earned Venus Williams safe passage through to the third round, as the former world number one quietly went about her business.
Williams, a finalist at the Open in 2003, is seeded 13 and she encountered little trouble in defeating Swiss qualifier Stefanie Voegele in an hour and 23 minutes, winning 6-3, 6-2 on Rod Laver Arena in what is her 73rd campaign at a major.
The triumph means the 36-year-old next faces either fellow American Varvara Lepchenko or China’s Ying-Ying Duan in the last 32, but she will appear again on day three when she teams up with sister Serena in the opening round of the women’s doubles.