OSAKA, Japan - No.4 seed Angelique Kerber claimed her first match win since Wimbledon after edging past American qualifier Nicole Gibbs in straight sets to book her spot into the Toray Pan Pacific Open quarterfinals.
Kerber came into Osaka hoping that her eighth appearance at the Premier-level Japanese event would be just what she needed to jolt to life the second half of her 2019 season. After a run to the Eastbourne final in early July, Kerber won just one match at Wimbledon - where she was the defending champion - and came into Osaka on the back of a five-match losing streak.
In the opening round, Kerber was up against former WTA Top 70 Gibbs in the opening round, who was out for a few weeks over the summer as doctors removed a cancerous growth from the roof of her mouth.
Kerber found herself in trouble in the second set as Gibbs took a double break lead. But she quickly squashed the American’s comeback efforts, firing 18 winners and claiming six of 11 break points to win 6-2, 6-4.
“It’s nice to have a win again,” she admitted. “It was a tough match. We both played really well. But it’s a good feeling to win a match.
“The goal now is to finish the year as well as I can, to put all the energy which I have into this run in Asia and to play well in the next few weeks.”
Kerber bossed proceedings in the opening set, breaking early to claim a 2-0 lead, and then kept her nose in front as the pair traded breaks once more, 3-1. The German continued to apply the pressure against Gibbs’ serve, and the qualifier double faulted to give up one more break and hand Kerber the set, 6-2.
But Kerber might have felt a sense of deja vu as she watched Gibbs making her comeback in the second set; all but one of her five consecutive defeats were three-setters, even holding a match point in last week’s battle against Alison Riske in Zhengzhou.
Gibbs roared ahead to a double break lead, her confidence growing as more of Kerber’s shots missed their mark. But from 1-4 down, the three-time Grand Slam winner came fighting back, reeling off five consecutive games to claim her first victory since July after an hour and 20 minute battle.
Up next in the Osaka quarterfinals, Kerber will face No.5 seed Madison Keys, who took down Kazakh qualifier Zarina Diyas later in the day to advance.
“I know Madison really well, so I know what to expect. It will be interesting. We both know we have to play our best against each other,” she concluded.