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Australian Open 2017: Angelique Kerber staves off a late challenge from Lesia Tsurenko to enter Round 2

The reigning Australian Open champion defeated her Ukranian opponent 6-2, 5-7, 6-2; faces Carina Witthoeft next.

Kerber defeated Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko 6-2, 5-7, 6-2

Top seed and defending champion Angelique Kerber staved off a late surge from World No. 51 Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine to enter the second round of the Australian Open with a 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 victory at Melbourne on Monday. The German finished with 27 winners and 34 unforced errors in this 2-hour 3-minute contest.

She will next face compatriot Carina Witthoeft for a place in the third round.

Tsurenko saved a match point in the second set

The match remained competitive for the first four games after which the defending champion raised her level while Tsurenko fell apart. The first breakthrough for the top seed came at 2-2. As the Ukrainian started missing her forehands, the defending champion went up 3-2.

Under pressure, the unseeded player became pretty off-colour for the rest of the set and conceded yet another break to let her more illustrious opponent go up, 5-2. The World No. 1 used her stubborn defence and excellent footwork to create angles with her forehand shots and carved out three set points of which she converted the first one.

There was no reprieve from the Kerber onslaught even in the second game. With a beautiful drop shot from the baseline, Kerber secured a break in the very first game of the second set. The German then won her seventh game on the trot before the Ukrainian could finally hold her serve.

The next pressure game came with Tsurenko trailing 1-3. She survived a host of deuces thanks to some great backhands, one of which even had the top seed applauding her. 

She showed some fantastic depth in her next service game to push the German out of the court and finished points at the net for 3-4.

Tsurenko continued her barrage of deep returns to go up 30-0 on Kerber’s serve but her hopes of breaking back were dashed when the southpaw came up with a couple of superb serves thereafter. 

Kerber had a slight hiccup in the second set but finished off in style

The Ukrainian’s efforts finally paid off when Kerber served for the match. Her consistent depth troubled the top seed who became a bit passive. Tsurenko saved a match point when Kerber's shot was blocked by the net and immediately broke back for 5-5 and held for 6-5 to lead for the first time in the second set.

Tsurenko even had a set point on Kerber’s serve only to see the latter saving it with a great forehand down-the-line. She, however, found success soon after when the two-time Grand Slam champion’s backhand caught the net.

Kerber started prolonging the rallies from the start of the third set and forced a deuce in the first game but was unable to make any in-roads until the fifth game. Much like the first set, she consolidated the break to lead 4-2.

That very much sealed the deal for Kerber, who broke again and then closed out the win when Tsurenko faltered with her backhand on match point.

Earlier in the day, fourth seed Simona Halep was the first big casualty at the 2017 Australian Open when she was thrashed 3-6, 1-6 by American Shelby Rogers. Seventh seed Garbine Muguruza and 13th seed Venus Williams progressed into the second round.

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