WIMBLEDON, Great Britain -- No.11 seed and 2016 Wimbledon finalist Angelique Kerber of Germany made swift passage back into the fourth round at SW19, notching a 6-2, 6-4 victory over No.18 seed Naomi Osaka of Japan on Centre Court on Saturday afternoon.
"I think it was a really tough match," Kerber told the media in her post-match press conference. "I know how she's playing and what to expect. For me it was important to play my game from the first point, to really be aggressive, have the tension on my side of the court, just trying to enjoy also the match on the Centre Court. Yeah, actually I'm happy how I played the match against her."
In their first meeting, Osaka stunned Kerber in the first round of the US Open last year, when Kerber was the defending champion. But Kerber has now won the following three encounters without dropping a set, emerging victorious here in 63 minutes.
Kerber had a superb serving day, winning 80 percent of points on her first delivery, and hitting 21 unreturned serves, including two aces. Kerber never faced a break point, and although Osaka had five more winners than Kerber's 23, the German limited her unforced errors to a shockingly low five miscues.
"I was serving very well today," Kerber deduced. "I think that was the key at the end, that I really served a lot of first serves, then I played my game. But she was always there. She was also fighting until the last point. She was trying to find the way, as well, especially in the second set. But I'm happy how I served the whole match."
The German completes the fourth-round lineup at Wimbledon, and now finds herself, at No.11, as the highest-seeded player remaining in the top half of the draw, after the upset of World No.1 Simona Halep. In the fourth round, Kerber will meet Switzerland's Belinda Bencic, who ousted No.27 seed Carla Suárez Navarro earlier on Saturday.
"[Bencic and I have] never played on grass, so it will be the first time as well," said Kerber. "She's a tough opponent. She has nothing to lose. She is always a dangerous player. She likes to play on grass...it's another tough match to play."
Kerber leapt out to a 4-1 lead before Osaka knew what hit her, breaking the 20-year-old Japanese rising star in two of her first three service games. Kerber hit only one unforced error during the entire opening frame, and hit nine unreturnable serves to Osaka’s four, leading the German to multiple stress-free service games.
Osaka held with an ace for 5-2, but Kerber would not falter when serving for the one-set lead. Kerber quickly raced to double set point, and after Osaka punched a backhand mistake into the net on Kerber’s first chance, the German held the commanding lead after only 26 minutes of play.
In the first game of the second set, Osaka was broken at love, blasting another backhand into the net while down break point. Down a set and a break, the Japanese youngster had a long road ahead of her if she desired a second win over Kerber.
But for the remainder of the set, Osaka started to keep pace with Kerber, as the No.18 seed’s power game started to click. Osaka survived two challenging service games to get to 3-2, finding more effective serves and dialing in on her outstanding forehand.
Nevertheless, Osaka was never able to get a look in on Kerber’s serve, which was nearly as pristine in the second set as it was in the opener. The Japanese player did well to fend off another break point and hold for 4-3 by forcing an error from Kerber with another powerful forehand, but Kerber remained unfazed, and responded with a love hold, punctuated with an ace, for 5-3.
After another protracted service hold by Osaka, Kerber served for the match at 5-4. An ace gave the German triple match point, and though Osaka blasted a forehand winner at the end of a rally to save the first, a long service return on the next point sent Kerber cruising into the second week of Wimbledon once more.
"For me, I'm just looking from my rounds, every single day," said Kerber. "You can just see how close it is. You have to be ready for every single round. Especially at the Grand Slams, you have to play your best tennis and go through it. But for me, I have just my eyes on my way, on my days, my matches."