Newly-minted Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber is in her third appearance at the Volvo Car Open with her first coming all the way back in 2009. This year also marks her first consecutive appearance at the event, entering as the top seed and defending champion.
She made her second straight quarterfinal by defeating qualifier Kristina Kucova in straight sets to set up a fifth career meeting with Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu, their fourth meeting in 15 months. Begu most notably upset Kerber in the opening round of the Australian Open last year, handing the then-world number nine Kerber her first opening round loss at a Grand Slam since the 2011 Wimbledon Championships.
It was a rather windy day Thursday at Charleston. Angelique Kerber and Kristina Kucova took the court for the first round of 16 match of the day. The match began with the first five games featuring consecutive breaks of serve before Kerber steadied the ship holding serve for a 4-2 lead. She then broke her opponent in the following game and comfortably served out the opening set 6-2.
The middle of the second set featured one long Kerber service game which she eventually won and pretty much set the momentum in her favor for the remainder of the match. In the end, Kerber sailed through, dispatching her opponent in straight sets with a score line of 6-2, 6-3.
The first quarter of the draw had featured sixth seed and 2014 champion Andrea Petkovic and 16th Misaki Doi. However, Begu and Kerber were the only seeds to make it to the round of 16.
Begu was taken to a decider in all matches in this tournament, defeating the likes of Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia, American Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Puerto Rican Monica Puig to earn her spot in the quarterfinals. In her round of 16 match against Puig, Begu after getting breadsticked in the opening set, leveled the match by winning the second set 6-2 before saving a match point in the decider to eventually prevail 1-6, 6-2, 7-6(4).
Both players have equally distributed their first four clashes. They met thrice in 2015 with Kerber capturing the win here in Charleston in a two-set tiebreak. Begu logged in her two wins over the German at the Australian Open and on the clay courts of Rome. In their first career meeting, in Indian Wells in 2013, fourth-seeded Kerber sent Begu packing in the second round with a straight-set win.
Much like her Romanian compatriots, Begu is definitely comfortable on this surface and has done remarkably well to reach her second quarterfinal here in Charleston and will be eyeing to upset the German like how she did at the Australian Open last year.
Kerber on the other hand is not a fan of the clay but last year she achieved the amazing solitary feat of winning tournaments on two different types of clay, here in Charleston (green clay) and Stuttgart (red clay). The German would definitely want to make a good account of herself as well given she is the defending champion and would want to prove that last year's title run was no fluke.
Expect the Romanian to put up a stern fight and give Kerber a run for her money. Kerber will be certain to make reparations for the loss in their last meeting and she must bring out her A-game and not give Begu any chances in order secure the win over the Romanian, a spot in the last four and also take the lead in their head-to-head.
Prediction: Angelique Kerber in straight sets