Kerber passes first test
Originally published on 04/07/17 00:00
The scoreline would suggest it was a routine victory for last year’s finalist however her nimble opponent contributed to an exciting duel.
Kerber looked to have the measure of her American rival in the opening stages but Falconi, who has never won a match at the All England Club, soon began to enjoy the salubrious surroundings of Centre Court.
The 27-year-old, ranked a lowly No.247, used her variety to unsettle the German and she eventually got her side of the scoreboard moving but she was unable to prevent the top seed from pocketing the opener.
The second set was equally tight but a loose service game at 4-4 from the American proved to be her downfall. After a first round exit at the French Open, the world No.1, who will play Kirsten Flipkens next, was noticeably relieved to have negotiated a tricky first obstacle.
“When I walked on Centre Court, all my memories came back,” said Kerber after advancing to the next stage. “I was trying to focus on today and I’m happy to be through because playing first round is always tough.
“Falconi had nothing to lose and she came through qualification and was trying to enjoy her time on Centre Court. I think she played good, and it was a good match from both of us.”
Another former Wimbledon finalist, Garbine Muguruza, was untroubled in her 6-2 6-4 success over Ekaterina Alexandrova.
"You never know how the first round is going to go,” said the Spaniard. “I’m pretty happy with my performance although I didn’t play my best tennis. I’m pleased that I’m handling these tough matches well.”
Karolina Pliskova, fresh from her victory in Eastbourne on Saturday, highlighted her title credentials as she dispatched Evgeniya Rodina 6-1 6-4. The Czech, who could become No.1 after Wimbledon, thumped an impressive 35 winners past her Russian opponent.
After the match, the 25-year-old said: “The first round is always tough especially as it’s just my second time on Court 1. I have started well today but I think I can still improve for the next one. If I serve well, I have the chance to beat anyone.”
Caroline Wozniacki was pushed by Timea Babos but she survived a tough period in the match and found a way to win 6-4 4-6 6-1.
The former world No.1 dropped her serve in the opening game of the decider however she reeled off six games in succession – with assistance from her opponent – to maintain her position in the draw.
“I feel like I’m in good shape,” remarked the No.5 seed. “The first round is always tricky and Timea is a great player, she serves big, so I knew I had to be ready from the first ball. She [Babos] definitely game me a lot of competition today.”
No.23 seed, Kiki Bertens, has been eliminated at the first round stage. The Dutchwoman was beaten in straight sets by Sorana Cirstea and another seed, Daria Gavrilova, was bundled out the competition by Petra Martic after an 18 game deciding set.
Agnieszka Radwanska returned to winning ways with a fine 7-6(3) 6-0 win over Jelena Jankovic and Christina McHale had to show her battling qualities to overcome a spirited display from Leicester's Katie Boulter.