Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 19 January 2020

Angelique Kerber begins title defence with 'tricky' win, Ashleigh Barty up and running: Wimbledon round-up

Defending champion overcomes challenge of Tatjana Maria, while French Open winner was a comfortable winner over Zheng Saisai

Angelique Kerber celebrates after beating Tatjana Maria in the first round of Wimbledon. AP Photo
Angelique Kerber celebrates after beating Tatjana Maria in the first round of Wimbledon. AP Photo

Angelique Kerber said she was pleased to get through a "tricky" opening assignment at Wimbledon after the German fifth seed began her title defence with a 6-4, 6-3 win over compatriot Tatjana Maria on Tuesday.

As is Wimbledon tradition, the defending women's champion competes in the first match on Centre Court on the second day, and Kerber lived up to the billing.

The three-time grand slam champion has enjoyed mixed fortunes since beating Serena Williams in the final last year, dropping to fifth in the standings, and went out in the first round of the French Open last month - although she had only just returned from injury.

Maria's combination of slice and guile, rare on a circuit dominated by big-hitting power players, frustrated Kerber at first, especially in the first set, but the former world No 1 warmed into the match.

"She's playing tricky on grass," Kerber said. "I was hoping to stay in the match because you never know what's going to happen with her. She really plays tricky with the slice on both sides."

The players exchanged breaks throughout the match and Kerber thumped shots long and into the net as she came to terms with her 65th-ranked opponent's subtle delivery, producing 12 unforced errors in the first set and 19 overall.

But Kerber was able to match Maria's all-court game when it mattered, winning the first set with an perfectly judged lob, off balance and on the run.

The pair served up skilled and entertaining tennis in the second set, Maria drawing gasps of admiration from the crowd for speed and deftness at the net.

Not to be left out, Kerber produced a running shot through her legs and, to earn match point, a smash from the baseline.

She finished the match with a thumping forehand that Maria could not handle.

The pair, at 31 of the same generation of German tennis players, embraced warmly at the net.

Kerber, with 29, has won more grasscourt matches than any other woman on the circuit over the last four years and last week reached the final of the Eastbourne tournament where she lost to powerful hitter Karolina Pliskova.

She will play 96th-ranked Lauren Davis of the United States in the second round.

Top seed Barty up and running

Ashleigh Barty began her bid for successive grand slam titles with a first-round WImbledon win over Saisai Zheng. EPA
Ashleigh Barty began her bid for successive grand slam titles with a first-round WImbledon win over Saisai Zheng. EPA

Ashleigh Barty's express-train run to the top of the women's game shows no sign of slowing as the world No 1 dispatched China's Zheng Saisai 6-4, 6-2 to reach the second round.

Barty, who followed up her French Open triumph last month by winning in Birmingham, sealed a 13th straight win in a brisk hour and 16 minutes, battling through the first set before easing through the second.

Barty has never been past the third round at Wimbledon, but her game is well-suited to the grass courts and, having reached the summit of women's tennis, she looks well-placed to challenge for a second grand slam title.

"It feels incredible. It feels a bit bizarre actually but I'm trying to go about my business in the same way as I always have done," she said. "You have to enjoy every minute when you're playing at this beautiful tournament."

Updated: July 2, 2019 07:49 PM

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