Former world No. 1 Angelique Kerber swept past the challenge from China’s Wang Qiang 6-1, 6-3 to pick up her first win of the year at the inaugural Adelaide International yesterday.
The 2016 Australian Open champion was defeated in the opening round at Brisbane last week by Samantha Stosur but dominated her Chinese opponent from the outset.
The German has seen her singles ranking drop to 18 in the world after winning just four matches in her previous nine tournaments and would need some confidence-boosting wins before the Australian Open.
The Adelaide tournament, which kicked off on Sunday, is a combined ATP and WTA event that replaces the Sydney International, which was dropped from the calendar to accommodate the ATP Cup.
The tournament has lost some of its sheen after Australia’s top-ranked men’s player Alex de Minaur withdrew due to an injury, joining world No. 2 Novak Djokovic as late withdrawals.
Women’s world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty is the top draw at the tournament and will hope to get some matches under her belt before the first Grand Slam of the year, which starts in Melbourne next week.
Barty had a bye in the first round and will begin her Adelaide campaign today against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova after she suffered a similar fate as Kerber in falling in her Brisbane opener to American Jennifer Brady.
“Every match here is a bonus. I feel like I’ve trained, done all the preparation well to put myself in a position to try and play my best tennis,” she said. “That’s all I can ask of myself.”
Hometown favorite Ajla Tomljanovic recovered from a bumpy start to beat Kazakh qualifier Yulia Putintseva 7-6 (4), 6-2 in the women’s singles and set up a clash against Wimbledon champion Simona Halep in the second round.
Twice Grand Slam winner Halep was a 2018 finalist at the Australian Open and cannot wait to get her season started.
“I feel good. I feel healthy. I have no problems. I had the chance to train properly in the offseason,” the Romanian former world No. 1 said. “I worked hard. I feel much better than last year when I started the year. Now we have just to play and to see how it’s going to go.”
Swiss world No. 7 Belinda Bencic picked up a hard-fought 6-4, 6-4 win over former top-10 player Daria Kasatkina of Russia while American seventh-seed Sofia Kenin thrashed qualifier Viktorija Golubic 6-0, 6-4.
In the men’s section, big-serving American Sam Querrey had to dig deep to beat French qualifier Gregoire Barrere 6-7 (4), 6-2, 7-6 (5) but Brit Dan Evans continued his strong form from the ATP Cup with a 6-2, 6-4 thrashing of Argentine Juan Ignacio Londero.
In Auckland, New Zealand, defending champion Tennys Sandgren of the United States reached the second round of the ASB Classic, beating New Zealand doubles specialist Michael Venus 6-4, 6-3.
Sandgren won his maiden ATP title in Auckland last year, beating Briton Cameron Norrie in the final. He looked strong yesterday with 15 aces in a 70-minute win. Venus is ranked 10th in the world in doubles but was playing his first singles match since a Davis Cup tie in 2018.
In other first-round matches yesterday, Brazilian qualifier Thiego Montiero beat last year’s runner-up Norrie 7-6 (3), 6-2.
Montiero’s second round opponent will be fifth seed Benoit Paire of France who had two code violations and a point deduction on his way to a 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 win over 18-year-old Italian Jannick Sinner.