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By Tennis Now | Monday, September 18, 2017

Angelique Kerber

Angelique Kerber swept 2016 finalist Naomi Osaka, 6-3, 6-4, in a strong Tokyo opener.

Photo credit: Toray Pan Pacific Open Facebook

Angelique Kerber gained a measure of retribution, while Kristina Mladenovic continued a free fall in Tokyo.

Kerber swept 2016 finalist Naomi Osaka, 6-3, 6-4, in a strong Tokyo opener.

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The 14th-ranked German avenged a 6-3, 6-1, thrashing Osaka dispensed in the US Open opening round last month.

The 2013 Tokyo finalist broke the explosive Osaka for the second time to snatch the opening set.

"I was talking with my coaches today and we were trying to figure out what I can do better than last time,” Kerber said. “For me, it was more important to look on my side of the court.

“I knew what to expect after the last match a few weeks ago. If she hits the first serve, it’s really fast and I was expecting that. I was ready to hit the fast balls back at her. I was trying to play my game better than last time.”

The 46th-ranked Japanese broke for a 3-2 second set lead, but Kerber began hitting counterstrikes with accuracy.

The two-time Grand Slam champion reeled off four of the final five games subduing the explosive Japanese.

“It's always tough to play against her," Kerber told WTA "I was trying to come out here and really focus on every single point and make it better than last time...She's a great player, great, talented player and tough opponent. For sure she will have great success in the future."

For the immediate future, the 46th-ranked Osaka will fall from the Top 50 after successive opening-round defeats in Japan the last two weeks.

“I didn’t really feel pressure because I kind of went through that already in the first tournament I played here,” Osaka said. “I didn’t feel pressure because I know I’m going to play a lot of matches here in the future.

“People play certain players a lot. I know that once you’re a top player, you tend to play the same opponents a lot because that’s just how the draw is. I thought it was kind of interesting I was playing her again so soon."

It was Kerber’s 350th career victory and sends her into a round of 16 match with either Daria Kasatkina or American qualifier Madison Brengle.

Kasatkina has been a Kerber nemesis winning two of their three prior meetings, including victories in Sydney and Doha earlier this season. Kerber is 4-0 lifetime vs. Brengle, including a three-set win in Tokyo two years ago.

Qiang Wang needed just 48 minutes to dish out a double bagel to Mladenovic, who betrayed her own cause with six double faults.

The eighth-seeded Mladenovic spiraled to her seventh consecutive straight-sets loss—the longest losing streak of her career. Mladenovic has not won back-to-back matches since Eastbourne in June.

The 57th-ranked Chinese will take on either American CiCi Bellis or Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova for a quarterfinal spot.

Japanese wild card Kurumi Nara rallied past Yulia Putintseva, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2.

Nara will play either lucky loser Aliaksandra Sasnovich or Caroline Garcia next.

Two-time former champion Agnieszka Radwanska withdrew with a virus. 


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