Kerber & Kvitova win race against weather

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By Ros Satar, in Birmingham

  • Petra Kvitova [5] def. Lucie Safarova 63 64
  • Angelique Kerber [2] def. Peng Shuai 7-6(3) 6-3
  • Schedule now falling behind as play is cancelled early for the second time

BIRMINGHAM, UK – Angelique Kerber and Petra Kvitova won the race against the weather, sailing into the second round at the Aegon Classic.

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The defending champion was barely on the court before the rains came down in the second match of the day, and looked like she was not going to have things all things her own way as Peng Shuai stayed close to the German.

The only break points of the first set swung in Kerber’s favour, after their restart, but she could not find a way through, as the pair battled their way to tie-break. Kerber struck first with a mini-break advantage and delivered the blow at the end to take the first set.

By now what little sunshine had chosen to settle over the Midlands had gotten bored and moved on, and the courts getting increasingly darker, Kerber once more got the slight edge in another tightly contested set, grabbing her only break point opportunity to serve out for the match.

“It was a tough match because I know against Peng, it’s always tricky to play. And the first matches on grass are always not so easy. But I was feeling good. I was serving very well the whole match.

“I was trying not looking on the clouds. I was really trying to staying in the moment and focusing every point each, and not thinking also to making things faster. When I was also up 5-3 in the second set, I think it was little bit raining starting. So I was trying to not thinking and staying in my rhythm.”

For such a dogged counterpuncher, the quicker nature of grass can sometimes be more of a hindrance than a help, but with Kerber’s switch in approach to try and introduce more aggression into her game, it provides her with a chance to excel on the tricky green.

“I think because I’m moving good. I think that helps me also on grass. I like the lower balls when they are not bouncing so high and bending my knees low. This is what I actually like. That’s true, they are really quick rallies, so I’m trying to going for it and just trying to change my game a little bit on grass. Not too long the rallies, just trying to take the first chance to going for it and being aggressive, which on grass is very important.”

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Two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova kicked off the day and similarly was in no mood to hang around. Having never been beaten by compatriot Lucie Safarova, she certainly was not in the mood to start now as she started swiftly, building up a 3-0 lead and never really allowing Safarova to find any rhythm.

She looked to be even more ruthless in the second set, breaking Safarova twice to leap out to a 5-1 lead but was really made to work for her win, finally taking her straight sets victory on her fourth match point. Yet when all said and done she is back on her beloved grass, as she explained after her match.

“I think with the timing was everything fine. It’s pretty fast and bouncing very low. So I was glad that we played some kind of small rallies today as well. But most of the time, it’s about the one-two shots in the rallies.

“It’s tough [for Safarova] coming to play some opponents when you know that you lost seven times before. Definitely I think it was an advantage for me. I know Lucie really well. We practiced many, many times. From the Fed Cup as well. Sometimes it’s just really tough. You never know as a first match on the grass, she can play well on the grass, too. I was just feeling good and I was positive.”

They were the lucky ones as the rains hit in the afternoon, and the day was called once more in the early evening. There is some time left to catch up with the rest of the first round matches, but only if they can get through them all by the end of Wednesday.

Play will continue at the Aegon Classic from 11am BST.

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