EASTBOURNE, Great Britain -- Two-time Eastbourne runner-up Angelique Kerber of Germany advanced to the Nature Valley International quarterfinals once again on Wednesday, with a 7-6(4), 6-0 victory over Rebecca Peterson of Sweden.
No.4 seed and reigning Wimbledon champion Kerber saved two set points at 5-4 in the opening frame before fighting back to take that set in a tiebreak, then eased through the second set to clinch her second-round victory after one hour and 17 minutes of play.
"I was feeling good so far," Kerber said, during her post-match press conference. "The first set was really close and tough. I mean, she had [two] set points in the first set, but then I was playing good in the tiebreak. And then starting good in the second set and finding then my rhythm even better in the second set, so it was a good match."
Former World No.1 Kerber saved all three break points she faced during the encounter -- the two set points included -- and won a whopping 83 percent of points when she got her first serve into play. Peterson played an excellent first set, winning 85 percent of first-serve points in that stanza and never facing a break point during that timeframe, before being overwhelmed by Kerber in the second set.
"I like to play on grass," Kerber stated. "For me, it actually doesn't matter if it's hot or it's raining or whatever. It's just a great tournament here for me. I have great memories, and I'm always playing good here, feeling good. So it's great to have another match before going then to Wimbledon."
— WTA (@WTA) June 26, 2019
Kerber, who reached the Nature Valley International final in 2012 (losing to Tamira Paszek) and 2014 (falling to Madison Keys), will face either No.6 seed Simona Halep of Romania or Slovenian qualifier Polona Hercog in the quarterfinals.
"This is the best preparation for me for Wimbledon," Kerber added. "You are playing here, the fans are cheering for you, and you have good opponents, you have the competition. Every match it's really tight and close. You have to play good tennis. That's why I'm coming back every year to have these matches before another Grand Slam."
The closely contested first set was full of tremendous groundstrokes by both players, and they each were protective of their service games in the early going, with no break points for either woman through the first nine games.
Kerber was the first to face peril at 5-4, as errors by the German gave Peterson two break points, which doubled as set points. Kerber, however, was able to erase those chances with two big serves, and eventually held for 5-5 as the duo inexorably moved into the tiebreak.
In the breaker, Kerber deployed a deft lob to reach 3-0, but Peterson broke open a crosscourt rally with a super backhand down the line to pull back to 3-3. However, Peterson lost three of the last four points of the tiebreak by firing forehands outside the lines, allowing Kerber to ease through to the one-set lead.
— WTA (@WTA) June 26, 2019
The German finally clinched the first service break of the match in the second game of the second set, and after that, Kerber pulled away from Peterson. The Swede dropped serve at love to give Kerber a commanding 4-0 lead as the floodgates opened for the reigning Wimbledon champion.
Peterson gave herself a chance to claim one break back, reaching break point at 4-0, but Kerber saved that with a backhand crosscourt winner, and closed out the service hold for 5-0 with another winner from that wing.
With Peterson serving to stay in the match at 5-0, Kerber notched her first match point with a winning volley that landed smack on the baseline. The former World No.1 converted that chance after a rally ended with a long forehand miscue from Peterson, and Kerber found herself into the Eastbourne quarterfinals for the fifth time in her career.
"I was trying in the second set to be more aggressive," said Kerber. "I think [in] the first set she was trying also to be aggressive, and going for it. And then the second set, I was trying to return also better, and going for the longer rallies. I think that was the key then in the second set."