EASTBOURNE, Great Britain - No.4 seed Angelique Kerber defeated rival Dominika Cibulkova for the second time in 2018, dispatching the Slovak, 6-3, 6-3, to reach the third round of the Nature Valley International.
"I'm really happy to be back in Eastbourne," she said during her on-court interview. "It's great to see the people here and all the fans who support me. Dominika is a tough opponent and it's never easy to play against her. I think I played good and I'm happy about my performance today.
"I'm looking forward to have even more matches here before getting to Wimbledon," she added after the match."
— WTA (@WTA) June 26, 2018
Kerber and Cibulkova have played an astounding 12 times and conspired to play some of the best matches of the 2016 season, including two at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global.
"We've played so many times in the last few years. It's always a tough battle and today was really close; every point felt quite close, as well."
While both struggled to repeat that form the following season, Kerber has grown by leaps and bounds in 2018, pairing up with famed coach Wim Fissette and returning to the Top 10 after strong results at the Australian Open and Roland Garros.
"I learned a lot from last year, and so now I'm just trying to enjoy and improve my tennis. I'm going out there just trying to play my best, and it's a little bit different than last year.
"I like to play on grass; it's always a short part of the season, but always the next one."
Channeling the form that took her into the 2016 Wimbledon final, the German broke twice to capture the opening set and weathered a fightback from the fiery veteran in the second set to edge through their first grass court encounter after an hour and 18 minutes on court.
"It was a good match from both of us. At the end it came down to a few points in both sets. We've played so many tough matches so I'm happy to win our first on grass.
"It's a tough draw here with a lot of tough players, so you have to be playing good tennis from the start of the tournament."
— WTA (@WTA) June 26, 2018
Kerber struck a solid 26 winners to just 14 unforced errors and converted four of eight break point opportunities to book a third round clash with fast-rising American Danielle Collins.
"We've never played each other before, but she's played well in the last few months. I'm looking forward to playing against her."
The former World No.1 will also be keeping an eye on the 2018 FIFA World Cup, where Germany aims to reach the knockout stage.
"We're still alive and it was really close in the last match, so hopefully we can win tomorrow, and not in the last minute!"