UPDATE 3.55pm: Third seed Angelique Kerber is the first player to advance to the women’s singles quarterfinals at this year’s Brisbane International after ending a spirited fightback from Australian qualifier Daria Gavrilova 6-3 7-5 on Tuesday.
The German lefty made a welcome return to Pat Rafter Arena where she won her past two matches here back in April in guiding Germany to victory over Australia in the Fed Cup semifinals.
Kerber served for the match at 5-4 in the second set but produced two nervy double faults and was unable to close out the 20-year-old, who rallied with the crowd support behind her to level at 5-5.
Not dissuaded by the context of the point, Gavrilova continued to play the role of the aggressor, going for her shots and saving two match points despite trailing 6-5.
But Kerber, relying on her defensive game to stay alive in many points, converted the third of her opportunities to take the set and the match 7-5.
“It was a tough match actually,” she said.
“I mean, we had like close games, and at the end it was also a little bit up and down from both of us.”
The 231-ranked Gavrilova, who claimed the Australian Open Wildcard Playoff earlier this month, continued her stellar early season form by battling through qualifying to earn a spot in the Brisbane International main draw.
The former junior world no.1 punched above her weight to get to the second round against Kerber and earned praise from the German.
“I don’t know her actually before the match. My coach told me some things. But, yeah, she’s a great player,” Kerber said.
“She’s young, and I think she will have a great future for sure.
“She was playing aggressive and going for her shots and it works actually also, so it was not easy for me.”
Keen to get matches under her belt ahead of the Australian Open, Kerber will meet either Australian Ajla Tomljanovic or Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina for a shot at a maiden Brisbane International semifinal appearance.
She went down to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Jelena Jankovic at the quarterfinal stage in 2012 and 2013 respectively.
American Varvara Lepchenko became the second player through to the quarterfinals after eliminating 19-year-old compatriot Madison Keys.
Keys had caused a stir with her elimination of world No.10 and fourth seed Dominika Cibulkova in the first round but bowed out to Lepchenko, beaten 6-4 6-4.
Lepchenko, who saved a match point in beating Sam Stosur in the first round, will now face the winner of the second round clash between Russia’s Alla Kudryavtseva and Czech Karolina Pliskova.
> Watch match highlights here (only available outside Australia):