In the first game of the Australian Open that she won, Angelique Kerber was a point away from being bundled out in the first round by Misaki Doi. The German carried that sense of impending disaster all the way to the sunshine of Court 2 at Wimbledon where a familiar opponent lined up against her yesterday.
“I was trying to play my tennis from the first point, to be aggressive,” said fourth seed Kerber of her reunion with the Japanese. “When I had the chance, I had to go for it. But it wasn’t easy for the first few games because, remembering how I was match-point down in Melbourne, I had in my mind it will be a tough match.”
It was tough, for the first set at least, as these two lefties slugged it out for a place in the quarter-finals.
Doi, ranked 49 in the world, has a punchy forehand but Kerber’s yesterday was punchier and she won 6-3, 6-1. “I’m really happy that I managed to win in two sets this time,” she said.
Kerber, 28, whose win in January was her first glam slam success, has flown under the radar at these championships while other seeds have crashed or been involved in some lengthy melodramas. So there was a big crowd to check her form and prospects before lunch.
The first Japanese to reach the last 16 for ten years, Doi, 25, stayed in contention in the first set despite being broken early, but she was up against a player who’d banished complacency, having had a fortunate escape last time. “I played the first point really tough. I was trying to be really aggressive,” added Kerber, who was pretty decisive on the last point of that set as well – a backhand return that was too hot for Doi to handle.
In the second set, Kerber was ruthless, grabbing another early break with a crosscourt forehand struck from far outside the tram lines, and not giving her opponent a sniff until the fifth game – and when break-point down on her serve, the threat was quickly extinguished. “She played very well, aggressive, tough forehand. That was a good match also from her,” Kerber said of her opponent.
Kerber was born in Bremen but her father is Polish and she lives in Puszczykowo, a small town in Poznan County where her grandfather built a tennis academy for her, naming it “Angie”.
Puszczykowo isn’t famous for much more, save a popular steamboat no longer in service. It would be unfair to describe Kerber’s advance to the last eight as being a steady-as-she-goes chug; Serena Williams, for one, will have her eye on the woman who beat her to the Aussie crown. The final point of yesterday’s match was the most exciting and included a terrific stop-volley by Kerber, whose first-pumping celebration was as lusty of that of Bastian Schweinsteiger and the German football team.
Ultimately, then, there was no danger of another wobble. Any danger of another title? Kerber, who would depose Williams as No 1 in the world if she were to claim her second title of the year, refused to be drawn. “It’s still a long way off,” she said. “I’m thinking right now for the next match which I will play. That’s what counts. I’m feeling good and I’m playing better and better. That’s what’s important for me and my confidence. But, yeah, I know that I have still a long way to go and that I have to play really good.”