In her first competitive match since winning her first Wimbledon title and third Grand Slam, Germany’s Angelique Kerber takes on Alize Cornet of France in the second round in Montreal. Kerber, who also won the US Open in 2016, has never enjoyed particular success in Canada, although she did reach the semifinals in 2016 (lost to Halep). Cornet, meanwhile, has found the winning touch again at last after a disappointing few months. But who will come out on top?
Kerber and Cornet have met four times in a rivalry that began five years ago in Madrid with a 6-4 6-2 win for Kerber in the second round. She scored another win a year later in Eastbourne, but was made to work rather harder for victory, eventually emerging a 7-5 1-6 7-6 winner. Kerber then won her third straight match against the Frenchwoman in Rome in 2015, defeating her 6-2 6-3. But last year in Wuhan, Cornet had her revenge, beating Kerber 6-4 6-4.
Path to the second round
Kerber, as one of the top eight seeds in Montreal, received a first-round bye. She last took to the court on the lawns of the All England Club where she denied Serena Williams a fairy-tale end to her magnificent Wimbledon run. Kerber delivered the sort of clinical performance she made her trademark during her great 2016 in the final, pulling the American from pillar to post with powerful, accurate hitting and was rewarded with a 6-3 6-3 win and the Wimbledon crown.
Cornet, whose first-round loss at Wimbledon was a continuation of some dreadful form, rebounded with a title in Gstaad on the clay. She then lost first round at the inaugural Moscow River Cup before making the trip to Canada to begin her North American hard court swing. She got off to a winning start, defeating Tatjana Maria, who had replaced Serena Williams in the draw after the American withdrew for personal reasons, 4-6 6-1 6-3.
How do they match up?
Kerber’s qualities reflect the growing importance of having a wide skillset in order to reach the top. Alongside the likes of Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki, she is an excellent mover and counterpuncher, with her running forehand arguably the best in the game. But she is also capable of going on the attack and dictating to opponents. She does so with controlled, but aggressive hitting and there are few who spread the court more impressively than Kerber.
Cornet’s style is not entirely dissimilar to Kerber’s. Like the German she is not blessed with enormous power, but counterpunches well and when she is at her best Cornet is very accurate off the ground. She has also shown an affinity for the big occasion throughout her career, as her three career wins over Serena Williams illustrate. But, she has also struggled for consistency and has thrown in more than her fair share of poor performances in her career.
Cornet showed some good form in Gstaad, but it was far from the most loaded draw on the WTA Tour this season and aside from that triumph, good moments have been few and far between for the Frenchwoman. In short, she has shown precious little to indicate that she is ready to beat a player of Kerber’s quality, for all that she enjoys the big stage. Expect Kerber to carry on her good form from earlier this summer with a straight sets win.