MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Angelique Kerber brandished her credentials as a title contender at the Australian Open with a straight-forward 6-2 6-2 victory against Slovenia’s Polona Hercog on Monday.
The Wimbledon champion minimised her time under the hot sun, where temperatures surpassed 30 degrees celsius (86°F) during the day-time matches in Melbourne, securing the straight sets win in just over an hour.
Her opponent, a former top-50 player, was too erratic to trouble the three-times Grand Slam winner, committing almost three times as many unforced errors as Kerber.
Kerber said her form improved during the match and her ball-striking was not side-tracked by the at-times inconsistent opponent.
“I played a lot of matches here already in Australia … I have my rhythm,” said Kerber, who played lead-up events in both Perth and Sydney.
Kerber was rarely challenged, and stepped up her relentless, grinding style on the handful of occasions she faced break points to move into the next round without losing any service games.
She will play Brazilian qualifier Beatriz Haddad Maia in the second round in a battle between two left-handed counter-punchers who have not previously met.
(Reporting by Jonathan Barrett in Melbourne; editing by Amlan Chakraborty)