NEW YORK, NY, USA – Angelique Kerber produced a 6-3, 6-4 victory over the up-and-coming Ann Li to progress to the last 16 of the US Open for the first time since 2016, when she went on to win the title.
The German took advantage of her young opponent’s nerves by breaking in the opening game but was thereafter given a stern examination by a 20-year-old who hit some sparkling shots from the back of the court and showed good variety in her all-round game.
Kerber, though, proved too experience and too consistent on this occasion as she booked her place in the second week, with Jennifer Brady oup next for her after this 78-minute win.
Making her 14th consecutive appearance at the US Open, Kerber had not dropped a set in victories over Ajla Tomljanovic and Anna-Lena Friedsam and started in a bullish mood as she raced into a 0-40 lead on the Li serve. Although the American showed a glimpse of her winner-hitting potential by getting back to deuce, she was ultimately broken.
Kerber hit 83% of her first serves in play during the opening frame and was rarely seriously troubled on serve. Li, though, did threaten to level briefly in the sixth game, by the experienced German hit her way out of trouble and nearly broke in the next game.
The 32-year-old accelerated at the end of the set, securing a rare comfortable hold and then breaking the Li serve again, which was not winning the home favorite any free points, to secure the opener in 34 minutes.
Kerber was the player doing the pressing at the beginning of the second set, though there was no doubt that she was still being tested by Li, who got to 30-30 at 1-1 before twice misfiring.
The three-time major champion moved into another gear at this point, with two powerful winners on the Li serve followed up by pressure that the younger player was unable to withstand as she a break.
The battling spirit of Li was impeccable, however. From 40-15 down in the very next game, she rallied to level the match again, while she had three break points to move 4-3 ahead.
The set might have gone either way at this point, with Kerber seeing two opportunities to make the decisive move escape her in the very next game, but after holding to 30 the German finally got over the finishing line with a break to 15 in the final game.