We're counting down the Top 5 WTA tournament matches of 2018: kicking off the countdown at No.5 is Angelique Kerber's dramatic opening victory over Lucie Safarova at the Apia International in the Australian summer.
WTA Staff
November 12, 2018

To mark the end of an incredible 2018 season, we're counting down the Top 5 WTA tournament matches of the year.

Kicking off our countdown is a match from the Australian summer that had it all: Angelique Kerber's opening round victory over Lucie Safarova at the Apia International Sydney. 

WHAT HAPPENED: From thunder and lightning in the skies to strikes on the court, the opening round match between Angelique Kerber and Lucie Safarova at the Apia International Sydney had it all.

In a match on Show Court 1 that was suspended twice due to rain and stormy skies, the German - the eventual champion in Sydney - needed to save two match point to seal a 6-7(3), 7-6(8), 6-2 victory to seal a place in the second round. 

The match approached three hours on the clock, as afternoon turned to evening, and also featured a break for a sudden thunderstorm at 6-5 in the first set and a second thanks to the threat of lightning just three points into the middle set.

Read the match report: Kerber comeback extends winning streak in Sydney

After winning her first four matches of the season to help Germany win the Hopman Cup in Perth, Kerber had just about 24 hours to adjust to condition in Sydney before taking on the 2015 French Open runner-up - and it was the Czech who first had victory in her sights in a dramatic second-set tiebreak.

Nonetheless, Kerber sent a match against her fellow left-hander the distance for the first time in dramatic fashion, eventually securing victory and levelling her head-to-head against Safarova to 2-2 overall. 

WHAT THEY SAID: After her first official WTA match of 2018 ended in thrilling fashion, the German had a chance to address what was a disappointing 2017 with the press afterwards. 

"It was not an easy match, but this was also what I was expecting: a really tough battle against Lucie," Kerber said.

"Every single game was really close. It was a big fight. Especially also, for me, I just came yesterday from Perth, so it was a big change with the hours, with the weather, with everything, actually. I'm quite happy that I won it at the end.

"This match shows me that even if I play not so good or make a double fault in an important moment, I'm still there and I'm still focusing on the next one. I'm not giving up any single ball. It doesn't matter what I was playing before, I did easy mistake or was going for a winner.

"I think that shows me that I'm, yeah, coming back and I'm really trying to playing my best tennis every single point, every single match."

After dropping out of the world's Top 20 in 2017 following her World No.1 season in 2016, Sydney marked the start of the German's resurgence this year - and it all began with this match. 

WHAT IT MEANT: The German eventually ran the table in Sydney while unseeded, defeating No.2 seed Venus Williams in another dramatic three-setter before defeating Dominika Cibulkova, Camila Giorgi and Ashleigh Barty to raise her first trophy of 2018.

"I say good-bye to 2017, for sure. I try to not thinking back on last year, so I really try to forget the year and starting from zero, and just playing like I played years before 2017," she added after the pivotal Safarova victory. 

"I'm feeling good. I'm trying to changing a few things and I'm starting 2018 with completely new mind and just going for it, and having matches like this that gives me of course a lot of confidence."

The German rode that confidence all the way to a 10-match winning streak to start 2018, where she was upended by World No.1 Simona Halep in a classic three-set semifinal, and later in the year, she claimed her third major title on the lawns at Wimbledon.

Angelique Kerber, Sydney 2018 (Getty)