The two-time finalist of the Western & Southern Open, Angelique Kerber, led a number of winners into the second round of the event on Monday evening in Cincinnati, including Elise Mertens and Paula Badosa.
The former number 1 in the world rankings Kerber from Germany, who reached the championship game of the tournament in 2012 and 2016, rolled past Maria Sakkari from Greece 6: 2, 6: 2 in a one-hour and nine-minute fight between two players, the highest-ranking unseeded players in the draw.
The night drink on Center Court between two of this year’s Grand Slam semi-finalists (Sakkari at Roland Garros, Kerber at Wimbledon) ended with Kerber taking a 3-1 lead in the head-to-head race, although Sakkari was her last Duel earlier this year at the Grampians Trophy in Melbourne.
With the win, Kerber continues a streak of excellent form, which is now 11: 1 in their last 12 games. Kerber won her first title in three years on home soil in Bad Homburg, which the former Wimbledon champion continued with her run to the semi-finals in London before she was ousted there by the eventual champion Ashleigh Barty.
Key to the game: Three-time major master Kerber performed a number of her classic squat shots to change direction in the blink of an eye, and she particularly excelled against Sakkari’s second serve, winning nearly 81 percent of those points.
The second leg served her well in a first set that was more competitive than the score suggests. The pair swapped breaks twice before Kerber took command and Sakkari broke in the Greeks’ last two service games of the set to reach the opening frame. Kerber swept through the second set to cross the finish line.
Next up for Kerber: The German will try to keep her hopes alive for another trip to the Cincinnati final when she faces one of the top players on the field and a frequent rival in the second round: number 4 seed Elina Svitolina from Ukraine .
Svitolina leads her neck-to-neck race 9: 5. They played for the first time in three years at the beginning of this season on the indoor clay court in Stuttgart, where Svitolina won in straight sets.
Photo by WTA / Jimmie48
Mertens passes Podoroska; Badosa saves five match points to beat Martic
Early Monday evening, number 15 seed Elise Mertens returned to the second round of the Western & Southern Open, while Paula Badosa saved five match points before winning a marathon opener on a rain-ridden Monday evening in Cincinnati.
Mertens from Belgium overtook Nadia Podoroska from Argentina 6: 3, 6: 4 and took her victory in the opening round at a tournament in which she had previously had a lot of success. Mertens was a semi-finalist in last year’s tournament (when it was held in New York) and a quarter-finalist in 2018.
The pair had previously met only once at an ITF Challenger event in Victoria, Mexico in 2015, and Mertens won in straight sets. In their first meeting on tour level, it was Mertens who prevailed again in an hour and 40 minutes of playing time and turned three of their six breakpoints.
The effectiveness on the second serve was the crucial difference between the two: Mertens won 55 percent of the points she started with that shot, while Podoroska’s success rate was a less powerful third.
Despite the Argentine’s frequent strong forehand, it was Mertens who controlled the game for the most part upon return. Back in the second round, Mertens will next face either former US Open winner Samantha Stosur or Elena Rybakina, one of the highest-ranking unseeded players in the field.
Badosa, on the other hand, was marginalized by Petra Martic from Croatia. It took the Spaniard two hours and 34 minutes to beat Martic’s challenge, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (9).
After splitting the first two sets, Martic broke the service in the very first game of the third set and maintained that advantage until 5-4, where she served for the game and held three match points. But Badosa got the break back exactly when she needed it, equalized the set to 5: 5 and then got two match points of her own on the Martic serve at 6: 5.
Martic fended off this, however, and the couple entered the tie-break, where there was a 20-minute rain delay at 6: 6 after Martic’s fourth match point. After this nerve-wracking break, the two returned, where each player held another match point before Badosa took her third chance 10-9 and dropped to her knees with joy.
Badosa meets one of the top seeds in the next round: No.3 Aryna Sabalenka from Belarus.
I am proud to say that I am finally a college graduate! thanks to @iueast & @WTA for the opportunity to do my apprenticeship and live my dream at the same time! When I turned pro after high school, I made a promise to myself and my mom that I would get that diploma! Forever and @IndianaUniv Degree! 💪🏼🤗👩🏼🎓🤓💞 pic.twitter.com/m4SSRICmvf
– Shelby Rogers (@Shelby_Rogers_) August 16, 2021
Americans move into Cincinnati. further
A trio of Americans clinched late night victories on Monday evening at the event on home soil, led by seeded number 13 Jennifer Brady, who beat Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova 6: 3, 7: 6 (3) in their clash in defeated the first round.
Brady, this year’s Australian Open finalist, was never broken in the 83-minute affair when she took her first win since Roland Garros. Brady is next up against 2017 Roland Garros winner, Jelena Ostapenko.
Alison Riske had it even easier when she flew past Canadian teenager Leylah Fernandez (6: 2, 6: 2) in 80 minutes. Riske claimed 14 of Fernandez’s 17 second service points for the win.
And an all-American clash went the way of Shelby Rogers when she passed the recently rampant Danielle Collins. With a left hip injury, Collins withdrew from the game while Rogers led 6-4, 2-1.