MELBOURNE, Australia -- 2016 champion Angelique Kerber of Germany cruised safely into the third round of the Australian Open on Thursday, defeating Aussie wildcard Priscilla Hon, 6-3, 6-2.
"The first rounds are always not so easy," Kerber stated in her post-match press conference. "It doesn't matter if you win in two sets or three sets. You always have to deal with the nerves with the first rounds."
In the first meeting between the combatants, No.17 seed Kerber needed one hour and 12 minutes to overcome World No.139 Hon, who had attained her first-ever Australian Open main-draw win over Kateryna Kozlova in the first round.
Former World No.1 Kerber, a three-time Grand Slam champion, continued her solid play after her own first-round victory over Italian qualifier Elisabetta Cocciaretto. Currently ranked World No.18, the German broke Hon seven times and won nearly three-quarters of points on her first serve.
"It's a great feeling to have now two matches under my belt with two sets, where I played a little bit better today than in the first round," said Kerber. "Just improving step by step, trying to play good tennis in every single round."
Powerful Hon, seeking her first win over a Top 20 player, had 22 winners to Kerber's 14. However, the 21-year-old Aussie was undone by 33 unforced errors, while Kerber kept her unforced error count low at 11, on a day affected by random shifts in the weather.
"It's Melbourne, you never know what to expect," said Kerber. "So I was just trying, you know, to focus on my game, playing how the game plan was, not really thinking about the weather conditions."
Home hope Hon opened the tilt with a hot start, using powerful groundstrokes to flummox the former titlist and clinch the first break of the match for 2-0. Kerber, however, swiftly put her mark on the match, using down-the-line efficiency to win two games on the trot and level the match.
Hon then dropped serve for the second time in a row with a double fault on break point to cede a 3-2 lead to the German, but the Australian powered her way to a love service break, leveling the clash at 3-3. At this juncture, though, Kerber began to take command of the set, earning her own love break as Hon’s error count mounted.
Kerber grabbed a love hold in the next game, firing a backhand winner down the line to reach 5-3. Though Hon stopped Kerber’s eight-point winning streak in the next game, that would be the only point the wildcard would claim out of the last 13, as Kerber eased home with another routine break to put herself up a set.
Once more, Hon started the second set well, converting the opening game on her third break point. But Kerber was unfazed, and the former champion used her penetrating forehand and unparalleled defensive skills to reel off four straight games and take control of the encounter.
At 5-2, Hon deployed a rocketing serve-and-forehand combo to save the first match point she faced, but a long forehand miscue by the Australian gave Kerber a second opportunity. The German would not let this chance slip away, as she scampered around the court to prolong a rally before Hon misfired on a wide forehand to wrap up the clash.
Kerber will now face one of two electric, aggressive players in the third round: Camila Giorgi of Italy or two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia, who face off in the second round later on Thursday.