World No. 5 Angelique Kerber began her 25th birthday on a high friday morning, defeating the resilient young American Madison Keys 6-2 7-5 to proceed to the fourth round.
With Kerber entering the match in a confident fashion, not having yet dropped a set during the tournament, Keys was well aware that she was in for a tough fight and would need to bring forth her best game.
The Australian Open 2013 is the 17-year-old American’s first time to the third round of a Grand Slam event, and despite the scoreboard at the conclusion of the match, Keys will surely look back on her solid performance against the world No. 5 with a sense of pride.
Keys began on serve, the experienced German wasting no time to shoot ahead to a 40-0 lead to establish an early break.
After the shaky start, a seemingly empowered and strong willed Keys retaliated by playing more intelligently in regards to her shot placement.
She fought back to claim six break points to finally win back the break, asserting a level of maturity beyond her years.
This was followed by another successive break by the left-handed German, who went on to serve at 2-1, delivering consistent baseline ground-strokes, placed precisely in the far corners of the court.
Her years of experience in the sport over her youthful opponent became quite apparent, exhibiting strict footwork and having her ‘knee bend’ shots down to a fine art.
Keys began to hit some slice drop shots and at times appeared more comfortable at the net than Kerber.
The young American took control of a number of points, feeding an epic rally where she ran the German back and forth along the baseline to eventually protect serve 2-5.
While power hitting was aplenty from both sides of the net, Kerber held serve to claim the first set in just 29 minutes.
The second set began with an inkling of déjà vu as each of the women once again faltered on their first serves to level the score to 1-1.
Having perhaps allowed time for the nerves to settle down, 17-year-old Keys posed a far stronger service game and she gained more confidence in going for impressive winner backhands down the line.
At some instances throughout the match, The American’s shots were perhaps a little too ambitious, applying just that little bit too much force to her ground-strokes which often fell long of the baseline.
At 3-3, a mixture of ambitious shot making on Keys’ part and her consistency wavering led Kerber to secure three break points, but Keys admirably maintained her composure to level the score to deuce to eventually protect her serve.
Keys’ ground-strokes became more accurate, granting her a break point opportunity, however, the German pressured the youth to inevitably error to turn the game around in her favour, breaking ahead to 6-5 to serve for the set.
The ever determined American earned two chances to break, but momentary lazy footwork from a tiresome Keys allowed Kerber to clinch the match 6-2 7-5 and seize entry into the fourth round.
This is the furthest Angelique Kerber has ever progressed in the Australian Open during her tennis career.
“I really have nothing to lose. I’ll just do my best in the next round, so we’ll see.”
Originally published at The SportingJournal.