SYDNEY • Angelique Kerber's build-up for next week's Australian Open suffered a setback after the world No. 1 went down in straight sets to Russian teenager Daria Kasatkina in the second round of the Sydney International yesterday.
Kasatkina, ranked No. 26, underlined her huge potential with a confident performance to take out the German 7-6 (7-5), 6-2 in under 93 minutes, in a match played in sweltering conditions.
While the Russian continues her march, Kerber's form is a concern ahead of next week's opening Grand Slam of the year, having also lost to Ukraine's Elina Svitolina 4-6, 6-3, 3-6 in the quarter-finals of the Brisbane International last week.
Kerber, who had a breakthrough 2016, winning two Grand Slam titles on her way to becoming world No. 1, struggled to find any rhythm and her usually strong forehand was astray.
"I made too many mistakes and I was not actually feeling the ball, because the balls are flying here a little bit different than in Brisbane," the reigning Australian Open champion said after committing 41 unforced errors.
"So it was not so easy, but I will try to forget the match as soon as I can.
I will try to forget the match as soon as I can. I will go in the next few days to Melbourne, and I will try to get ready there, trying to get the positive energy from last year.
ANGELIQUE KERBER, reigning Australian Open women's singles champion, on her preparation plans after her setback in Sydney.
"I will go in the next few days to Melbourne, and I will try to get ready there, trying to get the positive energy from last year."
In contrast, when asked about her emotions after her biggest win yet, 19-year-old Kasatkina said: "Difficult to explain because I beat the No. 1 in the world and it doesn't happen every day. I think I got some confidence."
She will next play British world No. 10 Johanna Konta, whose formidable serve troubled Australia's Daria Gavrilova in a 6-1, 6-3 win.
"I'm just happy I have accumulated a few matches already under my belt in the first few weeks of the season," Konta said.
It was otherwise a day of upsets in Sydney where temperatures sizzled at around 36 deg C.
Defending champion Svetlana Kuznetsova and last year's finalist Dominika Cibulkova were both knocked out in the second round.
World No. 9 Kuznetsova went out to Russian compatriot Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-5, 6-3 while Canada's Eugenie Bouchard continued her return to form with a 6-4, 6-3 win over the sixth-ranked Cibulkova. Former Wimbledon finalist Bouchard, who has won consecutive matches at a tournament for the first time since August, stretched her head-to-head lead over Cibulkova to 4-1 and will face Pavlyuchenkova in the last eight.
World No. 27 Pavlyuchenkova, who knocked out Australian Samantha Stosur in the first round, won in her first career meeting with Kuznetsova.
Ninth-seeded Italian Roberta Vinci was another seed to fall, losing 6-2, 6-3 to Czech Barbora Strycova.
Danish seventh seed Caroline Wozniacki ousted Yulia Putintseva 6-0, 7-5 and will next face Strycova.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
SYDNEY INTERNATIONAL DAY 4
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