Kerber's nightmare season hits new low with French Open pummelling
May 28, 2017 07:28 PM NPT
PARIS, May 28: World number one Angelique Kerber's nightmare season hit a new low on Sunday when she was dumped out of the French Open 6-2 6-2 by 40th-ranked Ekaterina Makarova.
The German became the first top seeded woman to lose in the opening round of the French Open since the sport turned professional in 1968 -- and the disparity between the players in her Russian opponent's favour was as wide as the scoreline suggests.
Cutting a troubled figure on court a world away from the feisty player who last season battled her way to two grand slam titles, Kerber lacked the pace and power to trouble a fellow left-hander.
Kerber, 29, has struggled this year, withdrawing from the Madrid Open with a thigh injury and going down in straight sets to qualifier Anna Kontaveit in Rome.
But Sunday's setback, albeit on a surface she has no great affection for and having made an opening-round exit in Paris last year, threatens to leave her season in tatters.
"I need matches. I need matches where I can start playing and feeling my tennis. Winning matches," she said prior to Sunday's loss.
That picture offers the starkest of contrasts with a spectacular 2016 that also brought her major wins in the Australian and U.S. Opens and a runner-up spot at Wimbledon.
Makarova - who had won four of her previous 11 encounters with Kerber - was making her first singles appearance on the Philippe Chatrier centre court as well as fighting against history.
But, arriving at Roland Garros high on confidence after having beaten Agnieszka Radwanska and Dominika Cibulkova on clay this year, she held her nerve to close out the match in a final game that featured five deuce points.
"I was also fighting with my emotions not to wait for a mistake (by Kerber)," she said courtside.
The Russian had imposed herself early in the first set, hitting a series of blistering forehand winners down both wings that Kerber often struggled to reach.
After briefly threatening a recovery in the eighth game, in which she held two break points, Kerber meekly surrendered the first set with a forehand that never looked like clearing the net.
The German dropped serve in the next game, with Makarova hitting another four clean forehand winners to consolidate her hold on the match.