Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber will continue her attempt to claim her second US Open title (2016) when she takes on Johanna Larsson of Sweden in second-round action. Kerber, who finished 2016 as the #1, endured a miserable 2017 but has rebounded with some excellent results this season, the most notable of which was her Wimbledon win. But the veteran Larsson will be eager to end her New York campaign before it gathers any more momentum. Who will come out on top?
Kerber and Larsson have met on three occasions and unfortunately for fans of the Swede, Kerber has run out a comfortable victor every time. Their first meeting came seven years ago in the quarterfinals in Dallas and Kerber won 6-0 6-1. Larsson was slightly more competitive when their rivalry was renewed a year later in Madrid, but only slightly, losing 1-6 4-6. They then met again earlier this year in Madrid and Kerber cruised to a 6-2 6-2 win in the second round.
Path to the second round
Kerber, who had won just one match since claiming her first Wimbledon title after early exits in Montreal and Cincinnati, began her US Open against the talented young Russian Margarita Gasparyan. Gasparyan is one of the rare owner’s of a single-handed backhand on the WTA Tour and used it to good effect in the early going against Kerber, pushing the German to a tiebreak in the first set. But Kerber won it and from there the writing was on the wall as she won through 7-6 6-3.
Larsson, who threatened to upset Venus Williams in the first round at Wimbledon only to lose in three, has been busy since the end of the Championships, playing in Gstaad, Moscow, Cincinnati and New Haven. But wins have been few and far between for her. However, despite being handed the relatively difficult first-round draw of Alize Cornet of France, the champion in Gstaad, Larsson scored a much-needed win, ousting Cornet 4-6 6-3 6-2.
How do they match up?
This will be a match contested, for the most part, from the baseline. Neither Kerber nor Larsson are blessed with massive power, but the German uses what pace she is able to generate more effectively than her opponent. When on top in a point she spreads the court excellently, particularly with her forehand. She is particularly adept at drawing opponents wide beyond the tramlines with that shot, leaving her empty space to hit into.
Larsson’s best shot is her forehand and she hits it with more spin than many on the Tour. That rewarded her against Cornet, as the courts at the US Open are bouncing higher than they usually do. She is guilty of rather shovelling her backhand, however, which often leaves it short of penetration, particularly off low balls. But, she does have excellent feel on her backhand slice, and she would do well to use it so as to change the pace of shot she is giving Kerber.
Kerber’s performances in Montreal and Cincinnati were very disappointing. But, a letdown was to be expected after her efforts at the Championships, and whilst her victory over Gasparyan was not a vintage Kerber performance, there was a marked improvement. And one should expect another Kerber victory when she takes on Larsson, over whom she has had something of a hoodoo in the past. Kerber in straight sets.