German fifth seed Angelique Kerber is through to the second round of Australian Open 2013 after a comprehensive 6-2 6-4 win over Ukraine's Elina Svitolina on Monday.
Kerber, who recently became only the fifth German woman to crack the WTA top five, was pushed by her 18-year-old opponent, but showcased a little too much class and experience for the Ukrainian.
The win was a step in the right direction for the world No.5, who has never made it past the third round of the Australian Open in five previous appearances.
“The match was very hard today because she (Elina) is playing very well and I didn’t really know her much before the match, so I was just trying to focus on myself and play my game,” Kerber said after her win.
“It was also really windy which made it tough, but I think the first round of a Grand Slam is always a big challenge.”
The 24-year-old, who is coming off a stellar 2012 which featured two WTA titles alongside success at Wimbledon and Roland Garros, says she has drawn a lot of confidence over the past 12 months, but concedes with winning ways also comes added pressure.
“For sure, 2012 was my best year and I had a lot of confidence (coming into) this year because I’ve been playing very well,” she said.
“I beat some good players so right now I’m just looking forward to playing this season and we will see what happens.
“But you feel the pressure for sure, from the media and (off the court) but I’m just trying to focus on me, to do my best playing tennis and working hard, improving and that’s it.”
Nerves got the better of Svitolina early, as she handed Kerber a crucial break at 2-2 via a double fault. The mini breakthrough was all the German needed to gain momentum, promptly storming away to close out the opener 6-2.
Kerber didn’t necessarily dominate play but simply showed a touch more class than her opponent, with her serves a little more crisp and her groundstrokes sharper. She regularly dictated play from the baseline, bullying her younger opponent around the court and pushing her from side to side.
If the German expected her opponent to lie down, she was in for a rude shock. Svitolina looked a new woman at the start the second set, racing to a 3-0 lead. But her surge of momentum was short-lived, Kerber using her experience and composure to claw back.
From there the Ukrainian could do little right – if she approached the net, Kerber would pass her down the line. If she had two break points, Kerber would fight her way back and deny her any breathing space. It eventually became too much for Svitolina as Kerber surged home, winning six of the last seven games to close out the match.
The victory continues Kerber’s solid start to 2013 after good results in Sydney and Brisbane, where she made the semifinals and quarterfinals respectively.
She will play the winner of Lucie Hradecka and Kiki Bertens in the second round.