Defending Champ Kerber Begins Defense Campaign Tonight
By: Nick McCarvel
Tuesday night inside Volvo Car Stadium, the champ takes to the court again: Angelique Kerber is back in Charleston.
After winning here a year ago, the German went on to capture three more WTA titles in 2015 and in January hoisted her first Grand Slam trophy at the Australian Open, where she shocked world No. 1 Serena Williams in the final.
Day 2 is a can’t-miss one from start to finish: 2010 champion Sam Stosur plays second on Volvo Car Stadium followed by former world No. 5 Eugenie Bouchard, a semifinalist here in 2014 and American Bethanie Mattek-Sands.
Althea Gibson Clubcourt includes young American Louisa Chirico against rising Japanese star Naomi Osaka at 10am, Delaware’s Madison Brengle, youngster Monica Puig and big-hitting Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic.
All eyes, however, will be on Kerber as she looks to become the first player to repeat as champion here since Serena won back-to-back in 2012 and 2013.
“I remember still the feeling that I had here,” Kerber said Monday of her memory from 12 months ago. “I had no pressure. I was enjoying it just like it’s home. Everyone is so nice here.”
The nice memories came flooding back when Kerber, major title in hand via Australia, touched down a few days ago in Lowcountry. “When I came back, it was the same feeling,” Kerber said, smiling. “I’m looking forward to playing my first match.”
Kerber will meet Lara Arruabarrena, a Spaniard, in a rematch of their third round encounter here a year ago. Arruabarrena beat local hope Shelby Rogers Monday evening.
Rising Russian star Daria Kasatkina opens the day inside the stadium against China’s Zheng Saisai. Kasatkina is an 18-year-old a player to watch in women’s tennis, having made the third round of the Australian Open. They’re followed by Stosur vs. Aleksandra Krunic, then Bouchard meets Alexandra Dulgheru and Mattek-Sands vs. Teliana Pereira.
It is a fantastic day to hold a grounds pass, with Clubcourt full of must-see matches from 10am on. On Court 3, doubles fans get a special treat when Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens, the Americans, team up to play Gabriela Dabrowski and Darija Jurak. They play the third match after 10am.
In the evening, University of South Carolina wild cards Hadley Berg and Paige Cline will make their WTA debut against American Vania King and Alla Kudryavtseva following Kerber-Arruabarrena.
Does Kerber begin another championship run Tuesday? Let’s watch and see.