CINCINNATI, OH, USA – No.2 seed Angelique Kerber began her quest to become World No.1 in earnest on Wednesday, dispatching the always dangerous Kristina Mladenovic, 6-0, 7-5, to reach the third round of the Western & Southern Open.
Watch live action from Cincinnati this week on WTA Live powered by TennisTV!
“It wasn’t so easy to come to a tournament with just one or two days to prepare, and first rounds are always tough,” she told Andrew Krasny during her on-court interview. “But I was trying to play my game, and it’s so nice to be back in Cincinnati; I have great memories from the last few years, and the fans are amazing. It’s just so nice to be back here on the Center Court.”
Kerber arrived in Cincinnati fresh off her run to the final of the Olympic tennis event – where she became the first German woman since Stefanie Graf in 1992 to medal in tennis.
“It was really special, one of the really special weeks in my career so far. Winning a medal was a dream; when I was young, I was the Olympics at home and to go back home with a medal right now is an incredible feeling. I had an incredible week there.”
The World No.2 ultimately showed few showed few signs of fatigue against Mladenovic, who was playing her second match of the day after Tuesday’s rain interrupted her first round match against Kateryna Bondarenko. While both players hit 18 winners, it was Kerber’s consistency that won the day, with 20 unforced errors to 44 from the Frenchwoman, who was a game from forcing a deciding set before the German clinched the match in one hour and 15 minutes.
Up next for Kerber is the unseeded and looming World No.20 Barbora Strycova; the Olympic Bronze medalist in women’s doubles will be playing with Co-No.1 Sania Mirza for the first time this week in Cincinnati, but has been equally impressively in singles this season. Surviving a topsy-turvy first set against No.14 seed Samantha Stosur, Strycova saved a set point in the first set tie-break – and needing six of her own – to ultimately beat the Aussie, 7-6(11), 6-3.
Kerber leads their head-to-head 4-1 but the two have split their 2016 meetings and Strycova won their most recent encounter at the Mutua Madrid Open.
It’s an important week for the reigning Australian Open champion and Wimbledon finalist; should she win the Western & Southern Open title, she would end Serena Williams’ 183 straight weeks atop the WTA rankings and become the top seed at the US Open, the final Grand Slam tournament of the year.
.@AngeliqueKerber ❤️'s #CincyTennis fans! https://t.co/lO2TkF8k6G
— WTA (@WTA) August 18, 2016