Kerber overcomes qualifier to reach Indian Wells 4th round

Three-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber came from a set down against qualifier Natalia Vikhlyantseva on Monday to reach the WTA Indian Wells fourth round.

Eighth-ranked Kerber, a two-time semi-finalist in the California desert, shook off a slow start to beat the 112th-ranked Russian 3-6, 6-1, 6-3.

After dropping her serve in the first game of the second set, Kerber won seven games in a row to force a third set and take a 2-0 lead in the decider.

She was unable to convert four match points against Vikhlyantseva’s serve at 5-1 and was broken at love when serving for the match at 5-2 before finally putting it away.

“I think it gives me confidence that I can turn around matches, that I can play also three sets, also in the close moments that I’m there, that I can trust myself,” said Kerber.

She said it was always difficult to face a player for the first time, and she’ll be doing the same in the fourth round against Aryna Sabalenka, the ninth seed from Belarus who defeated Lesia Tsurenko 6-2, 7-5.

Defending champion Naomi Osaka, whose Australian Open triumph propelled her to number one in the world, headlines the battles for a place in the round of 16 when she takes on American Danielle Collins in the night session on Stadium Court.

Osaka opened her campaign with a straight-sets victory over Kristina Mladenovic, avenging her shock loss to the French player at Dubai in February.

Collins is trying to build on a breakout run at the Australian Open, where she fell in the semi-finals to two-time Wimbledon champion Petro Kvitova.

Osaka won their only prior meeting in Beijing last year 6-1, 6-0, a result that left Collins eager for “another crack” at the world number one.

“There is no way it could go any worse for me,” Collins said. “That’s really as bad as it can get in terms of the score and how quickly the match went.”

Fifth-seeded Czech Karolina Pliskova survived an off day to reach the round of 16 with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Belgian qualifier Ysaline Bonaventure.

“The only good thing was my serve today, with a lot of aces and service winners,” Pliskova said. “Overall, I think my game was a bit bad. The conditions changed from my last match, but hopefully in the next match I can play better.”

That will be against Estonian Anett Kontaveit, who was leading 5-0 against 11th-seeded Anastasija Sevastova when the Latvian retired from their match.

One day after 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams retired from her third round match because of illness, Venus Williams kept the family flag flying with a 6-2, 7-5 victory over Christina McHale.

Williams pulled back a break in the second set to book a round of 16 clash with Mona Barthel, a 7-5, 1-6, 6-4 winner over Julia Goerges in an all-German contest.

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