Defending champ Kerber wins in Charleston

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CHARLESTON, S.C. — Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber opened defense of her Volvo Car Open title with a three-set victory over Lara Arruabarrena on Tuesday night.

Kerber, the top seed and ranked No. 2 in the world, moved on and won her sixth straight match here with a 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (3) win. It was also the second straight year Kerber upended Arruabarrena in Charleston, although the Spaniard put up more of a fight than in the 6-3, 6-0 defeat in 2015.

Other seeded winners at the clay-court even included No. 10 seed Sam Stosur and 14th-seeded Daria Kasatkina.

Mirjana Lucic-Baroni topped 11th-seeded Kristina Mladenovic, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (13).

Most of the top seeds, including the highest-rated American in the field in No. 3 seeded Venus Williams, begins play Wednesday.

Kerber gave the crowd on hands on a chilly night at center court a few frightful moments as Arruabarrena rallied to force a third set.

The German led 5-3 and 6-5 in the final set, yet could not close out the match. Arruabarrena was up 1-0 in the tiebreak before Kerber won the next four points to take control and finish things off in a match that lasted nearly 2 hours, 40 minutes.

Kerber said Arraubarrena raised the level of her game the last two sets.

“It’s always freaky to play the first matches on clay, and I was trying to stay in the match, trying to play point by point in the tiebreak,” Kerber said. “Because I knew very well, and I was feeling that” Aurrabarrena had increased her intensity.

It was almost the second time in three seasons the Charleston tournament lost its feature attraction early in the week. In 2014, defending champion Serena Williams dropped her opening match to Jana Cepelova and spent the rest of the tournament watching big sister Venus advance to the round of 16.