TORONTO, Canada - No.3 seed Angelique Kerber survived a tough Rogers Cup opener against qualifier Donna Vekic, needing a tiebreak to finish the match in two sets, 6-4, 7-6(6).
“I think the first matches are always not so easy after a long break,” Kerber explained in the press. “So I'm actually happy how I played, and I played very well from the beginning.
“The second set was really tight and close, but I think it got better from both of us at the end.”
Last year’s semifinalist in Montreal, Kerber was playing her first match since Wimbledon - where she surrendered the WTA World No.1 ranking to Karolina Pliskova by failing to reach the final. Vekic, on the other hand, had already five matches under her belt here in Toronto and was full of confidence after defeating Eugenie Bouchard in front of her home crowd in the last round.
Six double faults in her opening two service games put Vekic in a tough position - and set the tone for the match - but the Croat dodged five break points to keep them on serve. Vekic was dictating most of the early rallies, but found her efforts undone by unforced errors and a niggling shoulder pain.
The German finally broke through late in the set, taking the decisive break with the help of another Vekic double.
Vekic looked increasingly frustrated as Kerber got ahead by an early break in the second, but switched tactics to go for the dropshot time and time again, to try and catch Kerber off guard. It finally paid off in the form of a break back, putting the pair back on level terms as they marched into a tiebreaker.
She saved two match points as Kerber surged ahead but - in a cruel twist - misfired on a dropshot to give the German a spot into the third round after an hour and 46 minutes.
Kerber moves on to face the resurgent Sloane Stephens, who scored a statement win over the also resurgent Petra Kvitova, taking down the No.14 seed, 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-2.
“I think [Sloane] is always a tricky opponent to play,” she said. “She beat Petra, so she
has to play really good. And I know that she is starting to come back and it seems that she's in good shape.”