Loss puts bad spin on Kerber's return to No. 1

Second seed Angelique Kerber enduring a frustrating day at Indian Wells. She never led in her fourth round clash against Elena Vesnina.
Second seed Angelique Kerber enduring a frustrating day at Indian Wells. She never led in her fourth round clash against Elena Vesnina.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

INDIAN WELLS • Angelique Kerber will not celebrate her return to world No. 1 with an Indian Wells title after a shock fourth-round exit on Tuesday at the hands of Elena Vesnina.

The second-seeded German lost 6-3, 6-3 to Vesnina, who booked a quarter-final clash with seven-time Grand Slam singles champion Venus Williams.

The 14th-seeded Russian notched her first career victory over a top-three player.

Kerber was the top-ranked player in the draw, and will return to No. 1 in the world on Monday despite the defeat, thanks to Serena Williams' injury withdrawal from the event.

Vesnina went up a quick break and never trailed. She broke Kerber five times, and stifled a rally that saw the German close the gap from 4-1 to 4-3 in the second set.

"I was a little nervous at the end of the match," said the Russian.

"So I'm really happy that I closed that match because this win means a lot to me."

Kerber, winner of the Australian and US Open titles last year, had struggled past 62nd-ranked Pauline Parmentier of France in the previous round and never found her rhythm against Vesnina.

"It was not my day," she said. "I was making a lot of mistakes. I was not moving well. But it's happened. I mean, she played from the beginning until the end good tennis, and she was aggressive."

Venus beat Chinese qualifier Peng Shuai 3-6, 6-1, 6-3 to reach the last eight.

Eighth-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova is also through to the quarter-finals after speeding past Caroline Garcia 6-1, 6-4. The 31-year-old Russian next faces compatriot Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who toppled fifth-seeded Slovak Dominika Cibulkova 6-4, 3-6, 6-2.

Third-seeded Czech Karolina Pliskova booked her quarter-final berth with an abbreviated appearance under the hot desert sun.

She was leading Timea Bacsinszky 5-1 when the Swiss player retired with a left wrist injury.

Pliskova next faces seventh-seeded French Open champion Garbine Muguruza, who downed 10th-seeded Ukrainian Elina Svitolina 7-6 (7-5), 1-6, 6-0.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

INDIAN WELLS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2017, with the headline 'Loss puts bad spin on Kerber's return to No. 1'. Print Edition | Subscribe