Angelique lost her first match of 2020 to Australian wildcard Samantha Stosur 7-6(5), 7-6(4), which was an all-unseeded first-round clash between former Grand Slam champions at the Brisbane International.
Reported by WTATennis.com
World No.98 Stosur, who had won just one match here since 2012 and is yet to progress beyond the second round in nine previous appearances, had also lost six out of nine prior matches with World No.18 Kerber – including the last four in a row going back to May 2015 – and had not defeated the German off clay since the 2011 US Open semifinals. Kerber, by contrast, had never fallen before the Brisbane quarterfinals in five previous appearances, and in 2016 was runner-up to Victoria Azarenka.
Yet it was the Australian who started more confidently, dominating the opening passage of play with a series of powerful forehands and impressive net reflexes. Though Stosur would wobble to concede her opening break with a double fault, Kerber – whose groundstrokes were unusually error-prone to begin with – repaid the favor in the next game, leaving the path clear for Stosur to build a 5-2 lead.
It was at this point that the three-time major winner woke up, though. Redirecting pace with her forehand brilliantly, a pair of rapid-fire holds sent the message that Kerber had raised her level. Serving for the set, Stosur found herself under pressure from her opponent’s forehand – and as one of her own found the net, Kerber broke back, the centrepiece of a run of five games from 2-5 to 6-5.
Though the former World No.1 was unable to serve the set out either, this seemed a minor blip as she rebounded to take a commanding 5-1 lead in the tiebreak. But it was Stosur who took advantage of a pair of netted Kerber backhands to roar back, holding her nerve to pound a pair of brave forehand winners away on the final two points of the set.
There would be no such dramatic momentum swings in the second set, which instead provided a gripping spectacle as both players, now playing well simultaneously, went toe-to-toe for 61 minutes. Stosur’s forehand and volleying continued to work a treat, and the 35-year-old was even confident enough to mix up her drive and slice backhands to good effect. Kerber was more intermittent, with uncharacteristic errors continuing to beset her from both sides – but the left-hander was able to find her best tennis to stave off Stosur, saving two break points in the third game and another in the seventh in fine fashion.
But Stosur’s performance would be characterized today by her refusal to blink, even when opportunities had apparently slipped past. Serving second, the former World No.4 was able to come up with the goods on serve throughout the set, including a key six-deuce tussle in the eighth game in which she had to save a break point of her own.
In a microcosm of the set, the inevitable tiebreak began with both players hitting their spots with a sequence of excellent points – but midway through, it was Kerber who began to miss by inches, enabling Stosur to inch into the lead. And just as in the first set, Stosur was able to take full advantage, landing first serves and forehand blows before sealing victory on her first match point with a service winner to set up a second-round clash against either No.8 seed Madison Keys or qualifier Marie Bouzkova.