MELBOURNE, Australia -- It started as a routine day at the office for 2016 Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber, but the No.21 seed eventually was made to work hard before moving into the second round on Tuesday, ousting fellow German Anna-Lena Friedsam, 6-0, 6-4 on Hisense Arena.
"Everybody knows that I love Australia and I'm always playing good here," Kerber told the press after the match. "I'm really happy to be here with all the nice memories from two years ago and also the years before, and I'm just, yeah, loving the country. I just enjoy my stay here every single year, and it's always great to start the year here."
Friedsam reached the fourth round in Melbourne in 2016 and moved into the Top 50 later that year, but entered this year's event on a protected ranking after shoulder surgery caused her to miss most of last year. Despite a fightback late in the second set, Kerber had too much for her countrywoman at the end, emerging victorious in just over an hour.
Kerber remains undefeated to start the 2018 season, as she is still flying high from her championship run at the Sydney International last week, that being her first title since claiming the second Grand Slam trophy of her career, as well as the World No.1 ranking, at the 2016 US Open.
"I think so far it was a good season," Kerber continued. "I'm not trying to focusing too much on ahead, on past, or what's happened in the last year. I'm just trying to really restart again and try to enjoy my tennis again and trying to making the transit, you know, from the practice, from the offseason to the match courts, I mean, because this is always a little bit different, but so far it works. I'm happy about my start."
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It appeared from the start that Kerber would be back in the locker room in under an hour, as she raced through the first set in only 16 minutes. The 2016 year-end World No.1 was slamming winners off of both wings, continuing the solid form she displayed in Sydney, as well as at the Hopman Cup the week prior.
Kerber won 12 out of her 13 service points in the opening frame, including going 3-for-3 on second serve, en route to the bagel. Friedsam could only manage to win seven points in the set as the barrage of exquisite hitting derailed her early on.
Friedsam found herself down an early hole in the second set as well, as she gave up two breaks of service to hand a 4-1 lead to her higher-ranked countrywoman. At that point, however, the 23-year-old began to demonstrate the quality play that brought her into the Top 50.
After a double fault in a lackadaisical game gave Friedsam a break point, the unseeded German broke Kerber for the first time with a stunning backhand winner. After holding for 3-4, Friedsam gave it all she had in the next game, and a service return landing square on the baseline at the tail end of a long game gave her break point. A shocking drop shot error by Kerber on the next point suddenly tied the set at 4-4.
But Kerber's championship experience pulled her through the next two games. Friedsam fended off three break points with outstanding hitting, but two consecutive backhand errors allowed Kerber to break on her fourth opportunity to lead 5-4 and serve for the match.
In the next game, great groundstrokes by Friedsam, particularly cross-court, forced Kerber to deuce, but two points later, the two-time major winner had survived the struggle and was safely into the second round of the year's first Grand Slam.
In her next match, Kerber will take on World No.52 Donna Vekic of Croatia, who eliminated Japan's Nao Hibino in a first-round tilt by the score of 7-5, 6-3.