MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Former champion Angelique Kerber continued her resurgent run with a 6-0, 6-4 win over fellow German Anna-Lena Friedsam to reach the second round of the Australian Open.
Kerber raced through the first set in 17 minutes Tuesday but had her struggles in the second and was broken twice before converting her second match point and extending her streak to 10 consecutive wins.
She opened the year by winning four singles matches at the Hopman Cup, where Germany lost the final to Switzerland, and won the Sydney International last week for her first title since the 2016 U.S. Open.
Kerber made her major breakthrough two years ago in Australia, where she beat Serena Williams in the final, and went on to reach the Wimbledon final and win the U.S. Open in a year when she rose to No. 1.
Her ranking slid into the 20s in 2017, but she’s coming back into the kind of form which makes her a title contender at Melbourne Park. She and Maria Sharapova are the only former Australian Open champions in the women’s draw.
“I’m just enjoying it on court again,” Kerber said. “Something is going on with Australia and me. I love this country – I enjoy my stay, play my best tennis.
“The year starts good – I’m just hoping to continue this.”
Kerber will celebrate her 30th birthday on Thursday, when she has a second-round match against either Nao Habino or Donna Vekic.
No. 9 Johanna Konta beat Madison Brengle 6-3, 6-1, handing the U.S. a 10th loss in 11 first-round women’s matches.
The first-round upsets included Venus Williams, U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens and CoCo Vandeweghe, a semifinalist here and at the U.S. Open last year.
“It’s a testament to how many great first- and second-round matches we have,” Konta said of the early upsets. “Shows how much depth we have in the women’s game right now.”
Konta will next meet Bernarda Pera, a lucky loser in the qualifying tournament who registered the second win by an American woman at the tournament when she beat Russian qualifier Anna Blinkova 6-2, 6-2.
No. 20 Barbora Strycova’s 6-1, 7-5 win over wild-card entry Kristie Ahn made it 2-12 for the U.S. women with two yet to play.
Former No. 1-ranked Karolina Pliskova, the 2016 U.S. Open finalist, opened with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Veronica Cepede Royg, No. 8 Caroline Garcia beat Carina Witthoft 7-5, 6-3 and No. 29 Lucie Safarova defeated Ajla Tomljanovic 7-5, 6-3.
Fernando Verdasco, a semifinalist here in 2009, had a 6-1, 7-5, 7-5 win over No. 20 and fellow Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut.
Defending champion Roger Federer had a night match against Aljaz Bedene.
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