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Kerber hoping first-round wake-up call will ease nerves

Tennis - Australian Open - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - 16/1/17 Germany's Angelique Kerber waves after winning her Women's singles first round match against Ukraine's Lesia Tsurenko. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
Tennis - Australian Open - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - 16/1/17 Germany's Angelique Kerber waves after winning her Women's singles first round match against Ukraine's Lesia Tsurenko. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

(Reuters) - Champion and top seed Angelique Kerber will be eager to improve on her shaky start to the Australian Open when she takes on German compatriot Carina Witthoeft in the second round on Wednesday.

The 28-year-old Kerber, who is defending a grand slam title for the first time, was made to work harder and longer than she would have liked in her 6-2 5-7 6-2 win over Lesia Tsurenko on Monday.

"It's always tough for everybody to get the rhythm and at the start of the tournament, especially a grand slam, the first grand slam of the year," Kerber said referring to her less than stellar display against an opponent ranked 51st in the world.

Spanish seventh seed Garbine Muguruza will be looking to swat aside her injury problems against American Samantha Crawford, while two-times grand slam winner Svetlana Kuznetsova takes on Australian youngster Jaimee Fourlis.

Seven-times grand major champion Venus Williams faces Switzerland's Stefanie Voegele.

In the men's draw, 17-times grand slam winner Roger Federer will be out to prove his match fitness as he continues his comeback from a six-month layoff.

Federer was plagued with knee and back injuries last year and has slipped to 17th in the rankings, the first time he dropped out of the world's top-10 in over 14 years.

The 35-year-old will look to put his injury woes behind him when he takes on American qualifier Noah Rubin in the second round.

"I'm ready. I'm fit. I believe in my physical strength," said Federer, while adding that he knew little about his 20-year-old opponent Rubin.

World number one Andy Murray will have the chance to equal six-times grand slam winner Stefan Edberg's 178 grand slam match-wins if he overcomes Russian qualifier Andrey Rublev.

World number 156 Rublev will be bidding to become the lowest-ranked player to defeat Murray, who has a 10-1 win-loss record against qualifiers at the majors.

Fourth seed Stan Wawrinka takes on American Steve Johnson, while Japan's Kei Nishikori, who scrapped through an intense five-set victory against Andrey Kuznetsov, will be hoping for a smoother ride when he faces Frenchman Jeremy Chardy.

Local-favourite Nick Kyrgios will be targeting a third consecutive victory over veteran Italian Andreas Seppi.

(Reporting by Shravanth Vijayakumar in Bengaluru, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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