By Charles David Mathieu-Poulin and Maxime Labrecque
(August 8, 2018) MONTREAL – Fourth seed Angelique Kerber was upset in her first match coming back from her Wimbledon title, losing 6-4 6-1 to Alize Cornet in the second round of the Coupe Rogers in Montreal. Also on Center Court, Maria Sharapova and Sloane Stephens looked much more comfortable, advancing to the third round with straightforward two-set wins.
Kerber never seemed to find her rhythm as the match moved along: “It is never easy to change surfaces, I think I needed a bit more time to get used to hardcourts again, have more matches and practice time.”
On the other side of the net, Cornet did well to keep her composure and adjust her tactics to get the win: “My match plan was different today (than in 2017 Beijing, where she also beat Kerber). I was playing more to the backhand side, also being aggressive. I’m happy that I actually could do it the whole match.”
The Frenchwoman, who defeated a Top 5 player for the eighth time in her career, now faces No. 15 Ashleigh Barty in the third round, after the Australian defeated Alison Van Uytvanck 7-6(7) 6-2 earlier on Wednesday.
On paper, the match-up between Maria Sharapova and 12th seed Daria Kasatkina was intriguing. Kasatkina is currently the top Russian player in the WTA rankings, a role Maria Sharapova played often throughout her career, and is coming from back-to-back quarterfinals at Roland Garros and Wimbledon. On the other hand, Sharapova had fallen in the first round of Wimbledon, only her fourth first round loss in 53 Grand Slam appearances.
It was clear from the start that Sharapova was in spectacular form, reeling off the first seven games. Kasatkina, who likes to construct her points with spins and angles, did not have enough time to get in rallies, as her countrywoman would play first-strike tennis with ruthless hitting from both sides. What could have been an intriguing affair ended up a Sharapova masterclass, as the 5-time Grand Slam champion dominated her opponent 6-0 6-2 in 74 minutes. Sharapova will face 6th seed Caroline Garcia next.
As ominous rain clouds started to appear over Stade IGA, it seemed like Sloane Stephens didn’t want to extend her presence on court either. Facing the sole Canadian remaining in the Montreal singles draw, wildcard Françoise Abanda, the 2017 US Open champion and 2018 French Open finalist stormed off to a 6-0 2-0 lead in just over half an hour. To the delight of the crowd, the local hope then started playing better and getting closer in rallies, but it was too little too late as Stephens completed a one-sided 6-0, 6-2 lead.
Also a winner on Wednesday was unseeded Kiki Bertens, who repeated her Wimbledon round-of-16 win by defeating 9th seed Karolina Pliskova 6-2 6-2, as well as defending champion and 5th seed Elina Svitolina, who won as Mihaela Buzarnescu had to retire after twisting her ankle late in the third set.
The Ukrainian described the situation as “the worst injury I have ever seen in my career,” with the Romanian laying down on the ground for multiple minutes in pain and being taken off the court in a wheelchair.