TOKYO, Japan - No.7 seed Angelique Kerber overcame a poor start to power past Daria Kasatkina in straight sets in the second round at the Toray Pan Pacific Open on Wednesday, winning 7-6(5), 6-3.
Having lost the two matches she played against Kasatkina this year, the start was ominous for the German, who trailed 3-0 after just nine minutes.
Nonetheless, the German maintained her composure and clawed her way back into contention, breaking back for 3-2 after finally getting on the board, and staying even on serve until the tiebreak.
She emerged victorious once there, twice coming from a mini-break down, to take a one set lead after 50 minutes and hardly looked back.
Though matches in Doha and Sydney this year went the way of the Russian, Kerber enjoyed the better record at the event ahead of the match.
The two-time Grand Slam champion was runner-up in 2013, while Kasatkina was making her debut at the Premier-level event.
"It's always great to be back here in Tokyo, I have great memories," Kerber said. "I'm trying to take the energy...and play match by match, and just trying to focus on every single day and not look too far ahead. It's a tough draw, but a good competition."
Kasatkina had brief hope in the fifth game of the second set, as she carved out three break points, but Kerber stepped up another level and won five points in succession to see off the danger.
With momentum firmly in her corner, Kerber broke in the next game, showcasing both the power and counterpunching ability which saw her reach World No.1 and win two major titles.
Kerber has now reached the quarterfinals in five of the last six years at the Toray Pan Pacific Open, but is looking to make the semifinals for the first time since reaching three straight from 2012-14.
"This is the last trip of the year, so everybody knows and is trying to take all their energy on the matches they have left," Kerber said. "I'm trying to focus on the last tournaments, and every single match, giving my best on court and enjoying."
Having dropped out of the top 10 for the first time in almost two years in recent rankings, the German is eager to make amends and faces another former World No.1, Karolina Pliskova, in the last eight.
"It's always a tough match, we've played so many in the past, and always close ones," the German said. "I'm trying to go out there, play good tennis. Iknow what to expect, and I'm just trying to win the match again."