kerber australia

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Defending champion Angelique Kerber battled her nerves and blew a match point in the second set before finally overcoming Lesia Tsurenko 6-2 5-7 6-2 on Monday.

The win gave her a place in the second round of the Australian Open against compatriot Carina Witthoeft.

The top seeded German was starting the defence of a Grand slam title for the first time and made harder and longer work than she might have of advancing.

“I was actually feeling not too bad,” the 28-year-old said after basking in the applause on Rod Laver Arena, where she beat Serena Williams last year to win her first Grand Slam title.

First round matches always tough – Kerber

“From the beginning, I was trying to play my game. I played a good match. There was a little bit where I didn’t play too good. I make some simple mistakes in the second set, at the end of the second set.

“But first round matches are always tough.’’

After losing the first six points of the match, though, Kerber gradually found her range and proved too strong for Tsurenko.

Her victim was reduced to scrapping to save her serve and the odd pearl of a consolation point off her rasping backhand.

The nerves returned when Kerber was serving for the match, however, and the world number one angled a backhand into the net on her single match point.

This helped her Ukrainian opponent to break back for 5-5.

World number 51 Tsurenko grasped her opportunity with both hands and broke the Australian and U.S. Open champion again after a marathon nine-minute game to send the contest into a decider.

In the third

The third set developed into a battle of wills, but left-hander Kerber grabbed the key break for a 4-2 lead.

She then swept through the next two games to advance after more than two hours on court.

“I think it’s always good to have a match like this in the first few rounds,” said Kerber.

“I mean, it’s always tough for everybody to get the rhythm and to start the tournament, especially the grand slam, the first grand slam of the year.

“So I think it was not so bad to have a match like that in the first round.’’