LONDON, Great Britain - She was down, but not out - and World No.1 Angelique Kerber will stay on her perch for at least one more match at the All-England Club.
The German rallied from 6-4, 4-2 down to quell the upset bid of an inspired Shelby Rogers in the third round of Wimbledon on Saturday, 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-4 to return to the second week for the third time in the past four years.
"I was down 2-4, and I think I had break point also against me 2-5," Kerber said. "It was tough to find my rhythm actually. She played very well from the first point. She was hitting the balls very hard. I was just trying to finding at the end my rhythm. In the second set, I was starting to feeling the ball better and better.
"I think the key was at the end that I was fighting, and I was never giving up at the end, doesn't matter how the score was."
A hyper-aggressive opening set from the American saw her club 15 winners to just 10 errors - doubling Kerber's output off the ground - as she got the World No.1 on the move.
Though both players served well above 60 percent first serves in the opener, it was Rogers who got the key break in the third game, and made it stand up for the rest of the set - as she saved Kerber's lone chance to get the set back on serve immediately after.
The American's momentum continued to build in the second set, as she again broke in the third game and delivered a pair of emphatic love holds to lead 4-2, and put Kerber's Wimbledon - and place at the top of the rankings in jeopardy.
"I think...the key in the second set, I was really fighting and I was moving better, I was running better to every single ball," Kerber said of the comeback. "I think I start to feeling the ball in the tiebreak in the second set. I was playing really good. Then [in] the third set, was also a few up and downs, but it was better tennis also from my side."
After saving a break point, which would've seen Rogers serve for the match, Kerber started to work her way back - breaking and holding to lead 5-4 at the next change of ends to take her first lead of the second set since 1-0.
As the drama began to build towards a tiebreak, Kerber began to find her feet after losing the first point - and she won all four points on Rogers' serve to roll to a 7-2 tiebreak and knot the match at one set all.
"I think I start slowly. Also she was playing really good from the first point. She was really hitting the balls. Yeah, I was running, but it was actually I needed my time to find the rhythm, also how she was playing," the German said. "On grass, it's always different if you play your opponent for the first time. In the second set, I was starting to moving, as well, a little bit better. The third set was much better."
Kerber upped her aggression in kind in the second set, as she struck 14 winners to just six errors - doubling the former but keeping the latter static in comparsion to the first set - while Rogers again hit 15 winners, but also tallied up 14 unforced.
The decider saw Kerber tough out a marathon break of serve in the first game on her seventh opportunity - but she later saw Rogers draw level in the fourth game, and the American later carved out a break point to win her third game on the bounce with the German serving at 2-3.
Nonetheless, the World No.1 held on, breaking immediately after that danger moment, and holding on to her serve the rest of the way.
Her comeback victory sets up a meeting between the two women who won a combined three Grand Slams a year ago, as she'll face Garbiñe Muguruza for a spot in the last eight. The Spaniard cruised to a 6-2, 6-2 win over Sorana Cirstea to book her spot in the fourth round, hasn't lost a set so far at Wimbledon, and hasn't lost serve in her last two matches.
"I think I have to play from the first point good tennis against her. I have to, yeah, be aggressive, as well, and trying to playing my game from the first ball that we hit," Kerber assessed.
"I think it's a completely different match than the last three matches I had here. The last time I think I played [her] here, I lost the match. I'm looking forward to playing against her, trying to giving again my best, trying to win against her."
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