LONDON, Great Britain - No.11 seed Angelique Kerber survived a tough second-round scare from American qualifier Claire Liu, having to come back from a set down to move on at Wimbledon.
Liu, an 18-year-old who claimed the Wimbledon girls title here last year, was the lowest ranked player left in the draw at No.237 in the world and was seeking her first ever Top 10 win - and just the second Top 100 win over her career.
But she couldn’t maintain her level up against two-time Grand Slam champion Kerber, who recovered emphatically after dropping the opening set, winning 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 in just under two hours.
“I didn't know a lot about her,” Kerber admitted in press. “This is always tough to play against someone you actually don't know, and also don't really know how she is playing.
“It was a quite tricky match. I was not playing actually my best today. I was not feeling my rhythm from the beginning. She played well. She had nothing to lose.
“For me, it was just a match where I won. I'm just happy about that I won it at the end.”
Down 0-2 at the start, Liu broke former Wimbledon finalist Kerber three times on her way to taking the opening set. She played positive, aggressive tennis and retrieved everything that the increasingly frustrated German sent her way - Liu reeled off four games in a row to close it out.
Kerber dug her heels in to disrupt Liu’s momentum with a break to start the second set. But even as Liu threatened to turn around another deficit - she created two break chances at 2-1 - Kerber raised her level to dodge the comeback. She broke Liu once more to take the second set and send them into a decider.
Both players were fully dialed in during the tight final set, which saw Kerber finally come away with the edge after five straight breaks of serve. A trio of unreturnable serves sealed her the match, and her spot in the third round.
“I think every Grand Slam is really difficult, the [early] rounds,” Kerber said. “I think you need to find your rhythm, you need to find a way how you came in the tournament.
“I think it's just you have to think about every single match each because you are here and you have to play your best tennis because every round, it's getting tougher and tougher.
“I mean, Wimbledon is really special. It's also quite mentally. I think there are a lot of things around that they have to come together.”
Up next, Kerber will face the big-hitting No.18 seed Naomi Osaka in the next round. The Japanese player ended British wildcard Katie Boulter’s hopes in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4, earlier in the day.