ADELAIDE: Former world number one Angelique Kerber swept past the challenge from China’s Wang Qiang 6-1, 6-3 to pick up her first win of the year at the inaugural Adelaide International on Monday.
The 2016 Australian Open champion, promoted to ninth seed when Petra Kvitova withdrew, was defeated in the opening round at Brisbane last week by Samantha Stosur but dominated her Chinese opponent from the outset.
The German has seen her singles ranking drop to 18 in the world after winning just four matches in her previous nine tournaments and would need some confidence-boosting wins before the Australian Open.
“In the first set I was playing well, but the second was really tight,” the 18th-ranked Kerber said. “This is my first win of the year, I’m happy about that. I hope I can play like today in the next rounds. I want to win a few more matches before going to Melbourne.”
The Adelaide tournament, which kicked off on Sunday, is a combined ATP and WTA event that replaces the Sydney International, which was dropped from the calendar to accommodate the ATP Cup.
The tournament has lost some of its sheen after Australia’s top-ranked men’s player Alex de Minaur withdrew due to an injury, joining world number two Novak Djokovic as late withdrawals.
Women’s world number one Ash Barty is the top draw at the tournament and will hope to get some matches under her belt before the first Grand Slam of the year, which starts in Melbourne next week.
Barty had a bye in the first round and will begin her Adelaide campaign on Tuesday against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova after she suffered a similar fate as Kerber in falling in her Brisbane opener to Jennifer Brady.
Hometown favourite Ajla Tomljanovic recovered from a bumpy start to beat Kazakh qualifier Yulia Putintseva 7-6 (7-4), 6-2 in the women’s singles and set up a clash against Wimbledon champion Simona Halep in the second round.
Swiss world number seven Belinda Bencic picked up a hard-fought 6-4, 6-4 win over former top-10 player Daria Kasatkina while American seventh-seed Sofia Kenin thrashed qualifier Viktorija Golubic 6-0, 6-4.
American Danielle Collins and Croat Donna Vekic were among other women to clear the first hurdle.
In the men’s section, big-serving American Sam Querrey had to dig deep to beat French qualifier Gregoire Barrere 6-7 (4-7), 6-2, 7-6 (7-5) but Brit Dan Evans continued his strong form from the ATP Cup with a 6-2 6-4 thrashing of Argentine Juan Ignacio Londero.
Lloyd Harris of South Africa beat sixth-seeded Chilean Cristian Garin 7-6 (5), 3-6, 6-4, Jeremy Chardy overcame fellow Frenchman Gilles Simon 6-3, 7-5 while Australian wild card James Duckworth lined up a match with second seed Felix Auger-Aliassime after defeating Federico Delbonis 6-4, 6-4.
Published in Dawn, January 14th, 2020