By Alana Mitchelson
(January 19, 2014) MELBOURNE – Flavia Pennetta upset Germany’s Angelique Kerber in three sets on Sunday morning, 6-1 4-6 7-5, projecting a well-earned boost in her ranking to return to the top 20 come the end of the tournament for the first time since 2011.
“I would like to be back in the top 20,” Pennetti voiced.
“Of course, my dream is to be back in the top 10 but it is going be tough. The season is so long and it’s just started. For the moment, it’s so good so I hope to just keep going.”
The match began with a long rally, where neither player went for the winner but merely kept the ball in play to force the error. Kerber was the first to crumble in the face of pressure, making a forehand error, and this was a sign of what was to come from the German for the remainder of that set which allowed Pennetti to surge ahead to a double break lead.
“I think the first set was perfect. I was really aggressive. Everything was working pretty good. My serve, my return, everything was perfect. In the second set, I was just starting to wait a little bit more. She started to play much better… but in the third it was a little bit up and down for both of us.
Kerber lifted her aggression to make a comeback in the second set, giving herself time to find her range in rallies to launch her best forehand winner. Both performed unusually well upon return rather than on serve throughout, but Kerber picked her moment to set up three break point opportunities. She rose to the occasion, establishing a break and backed it up by serving out the set.
Kerber brought some of her best tennis to the court towards the end of the decider, generating some fantastic angles on the ball, but by that stage it was too late. The Italian had already broken ahead, gaining some well-timed momentum and was much more controlled in her movements.
”I think the only way to win today was to be aggressive and try to go for a winner, for a good shot. But also, not to rush too much. Every point was really long and I was trying to be near the baseline… it was the only way to win today.”
A place in the Australian Open 2014 quarterfinals might have been a nice belated birthday gift for Kerber, who had celebrated her 26th birthday the day before, but the Italian worked to force the errors off her more highly ranked opponent during the long rallies and broke ahead at the very end to ultimately triumph.
This win secured Pennetta her first ever quarterfinal in Melbourne and she has a promising track record against Li Na, who she is set to face during the week. But, in saying that, the two women have not come head to head in a tournament since 2010, so Pennetta is expecting a completely different match.
“She is so good. She’s one of the best players. Backhand, unbelievable. Forehand, really good. Physically, she’s strong. So it’s going to be a really good fight on the court.”
Alana Mitchelson is a Melbourne-based freelance journalist covering the Australian Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow her tournament updates on Twitter @TennisNewsTPN and read her personal website.