Crowd favorite and two-time Porsche Tennis Grand Prix champion Angelique Kerber kicked off her title defense against Kristina Mladenovic in the second round. The Frenchwoman had a big task ahead of her having yet to beat the world number two on three previous occasions.
Warning bells were already ringing for Mladenovic as she had to survive a tough opening game. However, from there on the Frenchwoman picked up speed and took the first set in impressive fashion. Kerber fought back from being 0-3 down in the second set but she just could not find her best tennis and Mladenovic tied her biggest victory defeating the world number two 6-2, 7-5 to advance to the quarterfinals.
Mladenovic takes her chances; fires through the first set
The Frenchwoman kicked the match off and was already forced to save break points in the opening game. Despite the nervy start, Mladenovic fended off Kerber in a mammoth game to hold. On her own serve though the German was sluggish and the Frenchwoman immediately capitalized for the early break. And she followed it up with a more comfortable service hold to race away with a 3-0 lead.
Kerber eventually got on the scoreboard for 3-1 but just could not seem to break through the Mladenovic serve. The Frenchwoman was serving up a high percentage of first serves and winning most of the points. Mladenovic was also tearing up the court with her winners and even though the German had her fair share of winners much to the crowd’s delight, her error count continued creeping up. Serving to stay in the set at 5-2, the pressure got to the defending champion handing the Frenchwoman with a break point. Mladenovic did not wait around and latched on to the chance to grab the first set 6-2.
Kerber’s fight back not enough
The second set began in similar fashion to the first, as Kerber looked to get off to a fine start. The German applying all the pressure and earned break points as Mladenovic stuttered with errors of her own. The Frenchwoman rescued both break points with aplomb but struggled to close the game. She kept her composure though and eventually came through to hold for 1-0. And just like in the first set, Mladenovic found the early break and cruised to 3-0.
Kerber was not looking like the defending champion as she seemed out of answers. However, after the sitdown, there was a slight momentum shift and the German carved out opportunities to break back in the fifth game. She did just that breaking the Frenchwoman’s serve for the first time in the match before leveling the set for 3-3. Mladenovic to her credit was not intimidated by the pressure and stopped the rot to gain the lead again for 4-3.
In the eighth game, Kerber found herself in a spot of bother again. The German was getting frustrated again finding the net more often than she would have liked handing break points to the Frenchwoman. Mladenovic though, allowed the chances to slip and Kerber got an important hold for 4-4. The match was getting tighter now as a string of straightforward service holds followed.
Serving to bring the set to a tiebreak, Kerber faltered once more while Mladenovic was brought her A game. The German fired long giving the Frenchwoman a couple of match points. Mladenovic who had been largely consistent throughout the match ripped her 36th winner of the night, sealing a huge victory to cement her place in the quarterfinals.