I was out playing tennis this evening so i’ve just been catching up with the second round match in Stuttgart between Angelique Kerber and Maria Sharapova. I knew it was a long un’ as the match hadn’t even appeared on the TennisTV catch-up function when I tried to start watching at 8pm! Matches like these are why I love the WTA and will continue to support and promote it on here on Moo’s Tennis Blog. This was a great match, but the one real takeaway was wow… WHAT a performance from Angelique Kerber. What a performance! The third set was close to perfection for the German player. It reminded me so much of the set that Agnieszka Radwanska played at the Australian Open last year when she bagelled Victoria Azarenka in the final set, en route to a stunning 6-1 5-7 6-0 win.
The match had started as it would mean to go on with the first four games taking 26 minutes and featuring plenty of deuces. The rallies were lengthy and the intensity was there from the very start. After splitting the first four games, Sharapova went on to win the next four and claim the opening set, 6-2. Kerber played a sloppy service game down 3-2 with a double fault and a backhand error. Sharapova was a little error-strewn to begin witth, but settled and was moving particularly well, considering this was her first clay court match of the year. The set was much closer than the scoreline suggested, but Sharapova was in the groove.
Sharapova continued to be the aggressor at the start of the second set as she began to find a rhythm on the return. Kerber held her first service game from 0-30 down. Sharapova remained in the driving seat as she chalked up a break point at 3-2. In a four-deuce game, Kerber held on. Kerber did a really a decent job at sticking in the match and it was much like how Simona Halep had stuck around with Serena Williams in the second set of the Miami semi-final. It kept going on serve, but the momentum started to swing every so slightly to Kerber. She eeked out a 0-30 opportunity on Sharapova’s serve at 4-4 (but didn’t break) and then surprisingly, held to love in the next game as Sharapova started to miss more returns.
Kerber’s movement on the court has always been impressive, but she took it to new levels in this match. She started to draw more and more errors from the racquet of Sharapova and pulled out a moment of magic to grab the break at 5-5 in the second set with an instinctive forehand passing shot after she had been pulled left and right. Kerber, feeding off a super home crowd, served out the set with aplomb as she struck a trademark forehand down-the-line that was PLUM on the line.
The quality at the end of the second set and into the third set was magnificent. Personally, it’s the best WTA tennis i’ve watched since the Australian Open final between Serena and Maria. The pair exchanged breaks of serve at the start, but it was the crucial third game that seemed to be decisive. In the longest game of the match, Sharapova led *40-15, but Kerber came back. She forced four break points, of which three Sharapova saved with clutch winners. Kerber though was absolutely relentless and on the fifth break point, a superb return helped her into the point and once again, she drew the error.
Kerber went on to win the next four games with some scintillating tennis. Sharapova was throwing the kitchen sink at Kerber, but she ran everything down and not only defended valiantly, also managed to produce some cracking winners. Sharapova even tried the drop shot on two occasions, but both time Kerber ran them down with time to spare. It was a simply inspired display from Kerber and although the third set went by quite quickly, it was awesome to see a player peaking like this. In this form, Kerber’s a title contender in Stuttgart. On the other hand, I wonder how she can back up this victory and performance. At Wimbledon last year with less than a day turnaround, a tired Kerber was unable to back up her fourth round win over Sharapova.
I’ve got no times for previews and frankly, my mind is blown from this match to even think about tomorrow’s matches. I haven’t checked social media yet so I have no idea whether my views are completely loopy. Anyway, kudos to Kerber and yayyy for her fans 🙂 I’ll try and put up some quick thoughts about the quarter-finals tomorrow morning, but i’ve got everythinggggg wrong this week 😀