Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Kerber through in three

Defending women's singles champion Angie Kerber was first up in the night session on Rod Laver Arena on the first day of competition for Aus Open 2017, and she needed to overcome Ukranian Lesia Tsurenko, currently ranked 51 but has been as high as 33.
Angie's first round in 2016 was nearly her last as she faced a match point.  History records her saving it and proceeding to defeat Serena Williams in a memorable final leading to a fabulous year.

Kerber and Tsurenko had met only once prior to this match - two years ago in Sydney, where Angie won coming from a set down.
2017 form is not great for Angie with just the single win and losses to Svitolina in Brisbane and Kasatkina in Sydney.  Lesia made the semi finals in Hobart before withdrawing from the event, so effectively came into the Aus Open undefeated this year.

Tsurenko began with the confidence of a player in form, and held serve to love, with a couple of early winners.  Kerber was scratchy, the backhand not doing things it ought, and she was down a break point before eventually levelling with a trusty forehand winner.
Tsurenko continued to challenge the top seed with her backhand supplying positive results and assisting her to a 2-1 lead.

At this point Angie Kerber decided to assert herself and after holding serve comfortably, broke the Ukranian serve, forcing Tsurenko into regular error, progressively breaking down the previously solid backhand.
3-2 became 5-2 with another service break as the unforced errors mounted for Lesia.
Increasingly assured, Kerber served the set out with a love game.
6-2 and well on track.

Angie broke serve again at the start of set two, and with a 2-0 lead had won seven games in succession.  
Lesia stopped that run with a solid hold but could not penetrate the German serve, or curb the Kerber forehand which was controlling rallies and finishing points so definitively.

At least Tsurenko had managed to rediscover how to hold serve successive times, and she was far more competitive in general play.  
At 3-5 she needed to hold serve again just to force Kerber to serve for the match.
This was done without fuss.

Angie Kerber had a match point at 6-2 5-4 40-30, but an errant backhand wasted that one.  Two more poor shots to follow resulted in the first break of her serve in the match, and very few people saw it coming.
Lesia Tsurenko suddenly was back in contention at 5-5 in the second set.

A double fault and 0-30 had us thinking Angie may break straight back but even having to save break points at 15-40, it was Lesia who kept her cool and Angie made the mistakes.  6-5 Tsurenko, and the worst she could do now was a tie break.

When Kerber needed her serve to be reliable, it was anything but.  She couldn't find a first serve to save herself, and the rest of her game suffered accordingly.  The writing was on the wall well before the final point confirmed the break of serve and the taking of the set 7-5 by Tsurenko.

Incredibly this one was going the distance.

The final set opened with winners from both players from both sides and after three games it was 2-1 to Tsurenko on serve.
The fourth game was pivotal, in that Tsurenko had set up a break point with a backhand winner.  The next point was seemingly all hers with Kerber out of position until somehow a magical forehand down the line was delivered from the German racquet.

We will never know what might have been if Lesia had been serving at 3-1.  But Kerber proceeded to hold serve for 2-2 and did not lose another game.

Angie into the second round 6-2 5-7 6-2

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