This week’s Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart is the first WTA tournament at home for the German No. 1 Angelique Kerber since her career-defining win at the Australian Open in January. Naturally, the 28-year-old was the cynosure of all eyes when she opened her title defence at this prestigious indoor claycourt event on Wednesday.
The immense pressure was evident as the second seed lost the first set 4-6 to qualifier and younger compatriot Annika Beck, who put up some brilliant shotmaking.
But that is where the German’s famous fighting skills were awakened. The champion did not waste any more opportunity and cruised through the next two sets to post a 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 win in this all-German second round showdown.
She was joined in the quarter-finals by the third seed and 2015 Wimbledon runner-up Garbine Muguruza. Unlike the home favourite, the Spanish player did not face any such problem as she blitzed past Hungary’s Timea Babos, 6-2, 6-2 in 1 hour 17 minutes.
Pliskova edges past Safarova; Vinci grinds out win
The European clay season gave Lucie Safarova one of the most memorable moments of her career last year when she finished as the runner-up at the French Open. But this year, her first match on the red dirt did not go her way as the eighth seed succumbed to a 6(4)-7, 6-4, 5-7 defeat to her younger countrywoman, Karolina Pliskova.
Sixth seed Roberta Vinci, who at 33 years has climbed to her highest ranking of 8th, had to work hard for a 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-4 win over two-time Grand Slam semi-finalist Ekaterina Makarova.
Much to the delight of the spectators at the Porsche Arena, there were two other German winners on Wednesday. 30th ranked Andrea Petkovic beat Kristina Mladenovic 6-2, 6-4 while 2011 winner Julia Georges pummelled Alize Cornet, 6-4, 6-0.
Women’s doubles top seeds Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis were back to their winning ways as they dropped just two games in a 6-1, 6-1 annihilation of the Japanese pair of Eri Hozumi and Miyu Kato in the first round.
In the quarter-finals, they will take on the unseeded Czech duo of Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova.
The Indo-Swiss pair is looking to put behind their recent inconsistent performances and kickstart the clay season on a positive note. Hingis and Mirza, who have conquered the last three Majors, need just the French Open title to complete a coveted non-calendar year Grand Slam.