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Kerber makes winning start to title defence

In a rematch of last year’s Sydney semifinal, Angelique Kerber recovers from an early break down to see off Italy’s Camila Giorgi and advance to the quarterfinals
8 January 2019, by AAP

World No.2 Angelique Kerber’s sizzling Australian summer has continued with a strong start to her Sydney International title defence.

Kerber found herself in a contest when Italian world No.27 went blow-for-blow in a tightly-fought first set of their second-round encounter at Ken Rosewall Arena on Tuesday night.

However the German showed why she is arguably the one to beat in Melbourne next week by claiming the tiebreaker and then reeling off the final six games to win 7-6(3) 6-2.

Kerber, who enjoyed a bye in the first round, advances straight to a quarterfinal against either fifth-seed Petra Kvitova or Hsieh Su-Wei on Thursday.

It is Kerber’s fourth straight win over Giorgi, including a semifinal victory here in Sydney last year.

“I was feeling good. It’s always tricky to play against her, because she’s hitting the balls really hard, especially in the first set, so I was trying to bring a lot of balls back,” Kerber said.

The victory continues a rampant summer where the three-time Grand Slam champion has a perfect five wins in as many matches, including all four contests at Perth’s Hopman Cup last week.

However, the reigning Wimbledon champion is refusing to get carried away with conversations of Australian Open favouritism.

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“Yeah, it’s really early. I mean, for me it’s here the first tournament,” she said.

“Of course I played Perth last week, but now you have the tournament feeling again, and it is I think quite early to say how I will start in the year.”

Having enjoyed one of the best years of her career in 2018, the 30-year-old started this season with a new coach in Rainer Schuettler.

But Kerber insists the former Australian Open finalist hasn’t made any major adjustments to her game, instead focusing on optimising her training methods.

“It’s just something like not huge change in my technique on my game,” she said.

“It’s like more to continue improving my game, working hard, doing a lot of fitness stuff, but also like hitting a lot of balls and feeling my rhythm.”