Australian Open birthday gift for Kerber

SAFELY THROUGH: Germany's Angelique Kerber on her way to a three-set victory over compatriot Carina Witthoeft at the Australian Open.
SAFELY THROUGH: Germany's Angelique Kerber on her way to a three-set victory over compatriot Carina Witthoeft at the Australian Open. Dita Alangkara

ANGELIQUE Kerber hardly celebrated in style. But the defending champion and world No.1 still managed to enjoy a win on her 29th birthday at Melbourne Park in the second round of the Australian Open.

Fellow German Carina Witthoeft certainly made Kerber work hard for the 6-2 6-7 (3-7) 6-2 victory before the crowd at Rod Laver Arena belted out a rendition of Happy Birthday.

It is the 12th birthday in a row she has spent playing in Australia.

But Kerber again struggled at times, as she did in the opening round against Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko.

She was broken in the opening game of the deciding set against Witthoeft, after losing 11 successive points, before rallying to win the next four games.

The match lasted two hours and eight minutes.

Kerber has said she was feeling the pressure of being a top seed at a major for the first time.

"(But) to have this pressure is a privilege. It's a completely new situation for me, but I'm doing well. I'm just trying to enjoy it playing on this great arena where I have so many great memories,” she said.

Kerber has twice beaten Witthoeft 6-0 6-0 but not this time, the 21-year-old winning the second-set tiebreak and looking as though she would cause a major upset.

"I'm trying ... to play more aggressive. But today I was doing a few more mistakes,” Kerber said.

"I was not finding my rhythm from the first ball. (But) at the end I won, and this is all that counts for me.”

Kerber now plays 58th-ranked Czech Kristyna Pliskova, the twin sister of No.5 seed Karolina.

After a "nice dinner” with her team last night, Kerber will head to the practice court today.

"I will just practice once ... just maybe 45 minutes or 60 minutes, just (to) have the rhythm back, and that's it,” she said.

Stan Wawrinka, meanwhile, continued his bid for a second Australian Open crown of his own with a straight-sets second-round win over American Steve Johnson.

The 2014 champion's 6-3 6-4 6-4 victory was far more clinical than his thrilling five-set comeback win on Monday night.

Wawrinka, who registered an 87% success rate on his first serve, next plays either Italian Paolo Lorenzi or Serbian 29th seed Viktor Troicki on Friday.

"I think today I was feeling the ball better from the beginning. I was really focused (and) being aggressive,” said Wawrinka, the 31-year-old fourth seed.

Topics:  angelique kerber australian open tennis stan wawrinka summer of tennis

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