Fatigue and a thigh injury caused Angelique Kerber to falter for Team Germany. The high ranked tennis star fell in straight sets to Belinda Bencic of Switzerland 7-6(4), 6-3 at the opening round of group play in the Federations Cup at Leipziger Fairgrounds Sunday. It gave Switzerland a 2-1 lead in the series with two matches left to play.
The Australian Open champion got back into action, this time for her country’s honor to begin the Federations Cup group play. She took down Timea Bacsinszky capturing a point for Team Germany while Bencic tied things up at one win a piece defeating Andrea Petkovic. With this being the last match in singles action; the stakes couldn’t be higher. The leading point would help either side the chance to move on to the semifinals.
Kerber opened service well against the Swiss teen but saw her strike back maintaining serve. All was well through three games but with Kerber warmed up, she began her attack in the fourth. Her break of Bencic sent the German crowd into thunderous applause for their girl who took the lead.
She got out to a 3-1 hold before Bencic pressed for some control. The teen forced Kerber into deuce where after three breaks she was blown away by the surging tennis star that took a commanding grip on the set. Bencic struck back in the sixth cutting Kerber’s lead in half that gave her some energy by the Swiss contingency in the stands.
She began to show some fight producing big points in the seventh that was breaking down Kerber who racked up the errors to sit a game from tying the set with Bencic. She won it on a challenge on serve that just caught the line putting the teen in an opportunity to break Kerber and play for the set. Bencic’s forehand was landing so well against the serve of the German until it all came tumbling down. She fired off three shots long of the baseline before losing the ninth with an ace from Kerber.
The tenth was a huge fight for both ladies on court as Bencic fought back to force the set onward. With so much pressure against the serve of the Swiss, Kerber folded up and allowed her a full comeback to move the set onward. With the set at stake, Kerber began the 11th with the serve in her hands.
She didn’t disappoint in front of the home crowd maintaining the two point gap that gave her a 6-5 lead. Neither was ready to give up playing as Kerber marched back but didn’t win the pivotal 12th game that went into the hands of Bencic sending the set into a tiebreaker. Things were looking like a stalemate after four points were split even but Bencic’s forehand got better along the way. She stepped two points ahead of Kerber showing dictation in her serve.
Kerber went to serve holding well to come back 4-5 but the serve went back to Bencic who was closer to victory. An unforced error from the strong German gave Bencic set point landing a big winner to the left of Kerber that gave Switzerland a 1-0 set lead. It took her 52 minutes to pull off the 1-4 comeback where her improving first serve and 15 winners helped her put Germany on the ropes with the chance to win straight sets.
Bencic opened scoring in the second but she got a big surprise from Kerber who came out swinging on serve. Though it took her three breaks and nearly seven minutes, the top ranked German fought hard and held serve to even things early. They stayed even through six games until the youngster from Switzerland took control in the seventh holding serve. Her confidence level cast a shadow over Kerber who was showing signs of pain in her thigh. It silenced the German fans after winning a second straight to serve for the match.
The 18 year old completely dominated in the ninth pulling off a beautiful love service against Kerber to win the match in 1 hour and 32 minutes. Bencic finished with a huge first serve that was highest against a top ranked player like Kerber. An 84 percent success on the first serve with just 13 unforced errors clearly made her the best one out on court that gave her country the 2-1 lead in the series. With two more matches to be played, it was still anyone’s to win before either could move into the semis.