Angelique Kerber hands Maria Sharapova first-ever loss in Stuttgart
There will be no free Porsche for Maria Sharapova in Stuttgart this year. The three-time defending champion was ousted by No. 14 Angelique Kerber, 2-6, 7-5, 6-1 in the second round of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix. The loss snapped Sharapova's 13-match win streak in Stuttgart and will drop her to No. 3 in the WTA rankings on Monday. Simona Halep will rise to No. 2.
The match was a high-quality affair from start to finish and for the first hour and a half, it looked as though Sharapova might seal the win in straight sets. The first three games of the match took over 25 minutes to complete, with both women breaking serve to start the match. But after saving two break points to hold to 2-1, Sharapova settled into the match. Kerber couldn't get out of her service games without either facing deuce or a break point and the Russian finally broke her to 4-2 and then again to seal the set 6-2.
In the face of Sharapova's solid clay game, which looked exceptional in the first two sets, Kerber slowly stepped up her game. She barely missed a first serve in the second set, serving at 90%, and faced just one break point in the set, which she was able to save. The set stayed even with both women exchanging holds of serve but Kerber saw her first break point in the 11th game and it was the only look she needed. She converted to lead 6-5 and then stepped up to play an incredibly clutch service game to serve out the set and force a decisive set.
The final set was all Kerber. With the home crowd behind her she played her best tennis of the season. The German came into the match on a seven-match win streak, which included her first title of the season on the green clay in Charleston. In contrast, Sharapova came into the match on a two-match losing streak after a poor swing through Indian Wells and Miami. Fit and confident, Kerber ran down every ball that Sharapova put to her while also punishing anything she left short. As Sharapova saw the court shrinking she succumbed to the pressure to hit bigger.
Sharapova finished with 44 winners to 40 unforced errors, while Kerber hit 22 winners to 20 unforced errors and served at an incredibly high 84% in the match. In the end they were separated by just four points, with Kerber winning 104 to Sharapova's 100.
Kerber advances to the quarterfinals to face another Russian, Ekaterina Makarova. No. 3 Simona Halep will play Sara Errani. Earlier in the day, America's Madison Brengle upset No. 4 Petra Kvitova and she will play Caroline Garcia in the quarterfinals. Caroline Wozniacki also advanced and will play either Carla Suarez Navarro or Belinda Bencic.