Success has not been easy to follow for German Angelique Kerber, but the world number three squeezed through to the fourth round of the Miami Open after Kiki Bertens was forces to retire following illness. Having lost the first set and on the brink, Kerber took full advantage of her opponent's frailty to seal a 1-6 6-2 3-0 win and set up a showdown with the impressive Timea Babos.
Maiden champions struggle
It's been a theme in recent years of first time grand slam winners struggling to deal with the hightened pressure and attention off the back of their success. Ana Ivanovic, Sam Stosur and Marin Cilic will testify to that, and in recent weeks so would Angelique Kerber. With defeats to Denisa Allertova, Shaisai Zheng and Belinda Bencic and only one win since her triumph, life at the top has seemed increasingly hard for Germany's premier player.
For large periods of a one-sided first set, this looked like continuing as world number 110 Kiki Bertens pounced on a flustered Kerber, who blamed the court and the heat amongst other things, to rush into a dominant lead before sealing the opening set 6-1. Kerber had only won two sets of tennis since the Fed Cup weekend in February, and hardly looked like amending this poor run which has threatened her place in the world rankings.
Powers that be look down on Kerber with favour
However, on Easter Sunday, perhaps higher powers were looking down pleasingly on Kerber, as in the midst of her struggles and torment, Bertens was suddenly struck down with a terrible illness which forced her to call for the trainer.
In their first ever meeting, it had looked like Bertens was on course to seal an impressive victory, but she never fully recovered from her illness setback, as Kerber punished her opponent's new found sense of insecurity. Barely breaking sweat, Kerber rounded off four games in a row to level at one set all and looked firmly in control.
Her dominance was eventually halted, not by Berten's tennis, but by her retirement at 0-3 down in the third and decisive set. It sends her through to only her second fourth round appearance in Miami, having never progressed any further.
Her next opponent, Timea Babos, overcame stern opposition in the form of Naomi Osaka, the Japanese wildcard, edging out a close first set before romping to victory 7-5 6-0. Babos, who defeated Heather Watson at this year's Australian Open, has lost in all three of her meetings with Kerber, the latest at last year's French Open where the Hungarian woman only won one game.