Major milestone: Kerber wins 100th match at Slams

  • Michael Beattie

Angelique Kerber became a Grand Slam centurion with a regulation second-round win over Beatriz Haddad Maia, booking her place in the third round of Australian Open 2019 by beating the erratic Brazilian 6-2 6-3 on Wednesday night.

The three-time Grand Slam champion became the eighth active player to reach 100 match wins at the majors in dominant fashion, bringing her career win-loss record to 100-41 as she set up a third-round clash with Australian wildcard Kimberly Birrell.

“I'm feeling good,” Kerber said after her win at Rod Laver Arena guaranteed she will be spending her 31st birthday on court at Melbourne Park. “Every year it's the same. I don't know, maybe it's a good omen to play also on my birthday.

“I think it was a good match from my side. I was trying to play from the first point until the last one really aggressive, serving good, really focusing on the moment on court. I think, yeah, I was playing good, especially in the second set – it was a little bit close, but I was there and I really took the match in my hand.”

Both Kerber and Haddad Maia play left-handed, and there the similarities in their games end. While the 2016 champion is a defender par excellence who has weaponised her forehand and beefed up her serve over the years, her 22-year-old opponent is a rangy slugger, constantly looking for depth and an excuse to fly forward to the net.

Kerber had Haddad Maia on the back foot from the outset, breaking in a 10-minute second game pock-marked with lung-burning rallies to open up a 3-0 lead as the world No.195 sprayed a glut of early errors.

But the Brazilian, who fell at the same stage to Karolina Pliskova on her Australian Open debut last year, eventually found some rhythm as she looked to punish anything short at or en route to the net.

Kerber wrapped up her 100th major win in style

Not that Kerber offered her much. The No.2 seed continued to boss the baseline rallies as she again brought up another six break points during a marathon sixth game, only for Haddad Maia to cling on to trail 4-2.

It was a brief reprieve, as Kerber sailed through her service game before being gifted the opener by a double fault and a forehand into the tram lines, Haddad Maia’s 29th unforced error of the contest.

In contrast, Kerber was in her element. Dropping just 10 points on serve in the match, she made just 10 unforced errors and allowed just one break point, saved in the early exchanges of the far tighter second set as Haddad Maia raised her game.

There would be no sprint to victory for Kerber as the Brazilian cut down the errors and stayed with the former world No.1 – until it mattered. At 3-4, Kerber ramped up the intensity and clinched the crucial break when Haddad Maia hooked a cross-court forehand wide and long, bringing the match to an end in the next game after one hour, 20 minutes.

pattern
Unforced errors
10 Angelique Kerber
39 Beatriz Haddad Maia

Kerber admitted she had scouted Birrell before her own match, keeping an eye on her third-round opponent’s win over Donna Vekic. And while the reigning Wimbledon champion knows she may not enjoy the lion’s share of support on Friday, she’s looking forward to another birthday bash at the Australian Open.

“She played really well – she’s in the third round as well,” Kerber said of Birrell’s display. 

“I saw little bit the match today against Vekic, but just a little bit. I mean, she has nothing to lose. She is trying to play her best tennis against the best players.

“I know it will not be easy. She beat good players in the last few weeks. For me it's more like the last two matches, as well, to focusing on me, to trying to enjoy my tennis and try to take the match in my hand. That's more the game plan I have also for the next matches – doesn't matter against who I'm playing.”