Australian Open: Angelique Kerber suffers big scare against Carina Witthoeft

Australian Open: Angelique Kerber suffers big scare against Carina Witthoeft

World number one Angelique Kerber had to come down from a break in the final set to come through her second round match against Carina Witthoeft in three sets, and progressed to the third round as a result.

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Don Han

World number one Angelique Kerber overcame a very tough and spirited opponent in Carina Witthoeft after she had to battle for three sets. Kerber came close to a defeat when she went down a break in the final set but managed to rebound from the deficit to close out the match in 2 hours and 8 minutes.

Angelique Kerber looked rusty today | Photo: Michael Dodge/Getty Images AsiaPac
Angelique Kerber looked rusty today | Photo: Michael Dodge/Getty Images AsiaPac

Kerber claims opening set

The world number one made a surprisingly fast start in her match today, as she came up with a service break as early as the opening game of the match where Witthoeft’s serve betrayed her at the crucial moments after she produced three double faults which indirectly gave Kerber the break of service. However, Kerber’s celebrations were short-lived as she was broken back by Witthoeft immediately as the five unforced errors she made cost her greatly during the 10 minutes game. There was a third straight break of serve when Kerber regained her lead after Witthoeft lost 3 of the 4 points due to double faults coming from her, which is very disappointing. There was finally a service hold as the world number one consolidated the break of service with a hold of service where she had to come from 15-30 down to hold serve after three consecutive unforced errors by the lower-ranked German.

Angelique Kerber reaches out for a ball | Photo: Michael Dodge/Getty Images AsiaPac
Angelique Kerber reaches out for a ball | Photo: Michael Dodge/Getty Images AsiaPac

With things looking very tight in the first set with only a break of serve separating the two in the scoreboard, Kerber made the breakthrough once again as she saved two game points in the process to extend her lead to two breaks of serve and also gave herself a chance to serve out the set. The world number one did just so, as she successfully served out the set to love and clinched the set in just 36 minutes.

Witthoeft fights back

Kerber got off to a perfect start to the second set as she broke serve in the opening game of the second set, similar to the first set. However, this time she managed to consolidate the break of service to affirm her lead on the scoreboard. After falling behind a set and a break, many thought that Witthoeft would lose the confidence and momentum, but she proved everyone wrong when she broke back to level the match at 2-2 after Kerber looked very leaky on her forehand.

Witthoeft was unlucky to not take her chances today | Photo: Michael Dodge/Getty Images AsiaPac
Witthoeft was unlucky to not take her chances today | Photo: Michael Dodge/Getty Images AsiaPac

Witthoeft then continued her run as she held her serve comfortably to take a 3-2 lead as Kerber was unable to go against the offense of Witthoeft. Kerber had a great chance to earn the opportunity to serve out the match as she had a break point at 4-4 before allowing Witthoeft to hold serve and remain on serve. The second set was eventually extended into a tiebreak as either player was unable to find a breakthrough in their return games, and Kerber once again looked to close out the match in straight sets as she jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the tiebreak. However, two consecutive double faults from Kerber at 3-2 gave Witthoeft the mini break which increased her confidence and gave her the momentum. The underdog finally closed out the tiebreak 7-3 and leveled the match to have a chance of creating a huge upset.

Angelique Kerber hits a passing shot | Photo: Michael Dodge/Getty Images AsiaPac
Angelique Kerber hits a passing shot | Photo: Michael Dodge/Getty Images AsiaPac

Kerber strolls to final set victory

With the confidence and momentum running in her, Witthoeft continued her good run as she broke Kerber’s serve to love in the opening game of the final set to have the early advantage and look on course for a big upset. Nevertheless, Kerber affirmed her status as the world number one as she took advantage of three consecutive errors by the younger German to break back immediately and prevent Witthoeft from running away with the match. Kerber then closed out the following game with two straight aces, which was a rare occurrence for the top-ranked player. Seemingly affected by her inability to consolidate the break, Witthoeft was broken once again to gift Kerber the lead in the final set and put her in an advantageous situation to close out the match in three sets.

Carina Witthoeft reaches for the ball | Photo: Michael Dodge/Getty Images AsiaPac
Carina Witthoeft reaches for the ball | Photo: Michael Dodge/Getty Images AsiaPac

Witthoeft finally stopped the rout as she held her serve to lessen the deficit to just two games after three forehand winners blasted by her. The two-time grand slam champion then earned another service hold to lead 5-2 and was just one game away from the hard-fought victory. She did not have to wait to serve it out though as she broke serve for the seventh time throughout the match due to the three consecutive forehand unforced errors made by Witthoeft.

Next up for Kerber

The world number one would next face Kristyna Pliskova in the third round for a place in the second week of the first grand slam in the year. They have not faced each other in their careers before, and it would be interesting to see if Pliskova could pull off a big upset here.

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