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Kerber, Halep stay the course for No.1 clash in Eastbourne

EASTBOURNE, Great Britain - Both Angelique Kerber and Simona Halep had winning debuts at the Aegon International the hard way on Wednesday, as the World No.1 and No.2 each rallied from a set down in the first of two matches they'll play today thanks to a washout on Tuesday.

Halep and Duan Ying-ying played just two games on Tuesday when play was suspended due to rain, and Halep was forced to battle back upon resumption for a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 win, while Kerber found herself two points from defeat against Kristyna Pliskova late in the third set, but escaped with the last three games and a 4-6, 6-1, 7-5 victory.

The top two seeds were each forced to dig deep in their opening matches at the Aegon International on Wednesday, each coming from a set down to advance to the round of 16.
Behind 32 winners and just 20 unforced errors, Halep withstood the aggressive game of the Chinese qualifier, getting her on the run and hitting into the open space - as she did on match point to close out the one-hour, 42-minute win.

With the victory, Halep begins her road to the No.1 ranking, which she has a chance to take from Angelique Kerber this week in Eastbourne. The World No.2 has a chance to ascend to the top spot should she reach the semifinals or better this week, and she has the No.1 ranking in her hands.

Should Kerber reach either the quarterfinals or semifinals, then Halep would need to reach the final to rise to the top ranking ahead of Wimbledon. If the German reaches the final, then Halep would need to beat her to win the title and claim the No.1 ranking.

After being blitzed by the lefty in the opening set, Kerber took advantage as Pliskova's level dipped in the second set to work her way into the match. The Czech struck seven aces and 18 winners to just nine unforced errors in the opening set, but finished with a differential of 37 winners to 36 unforced errors, as well as 11 aces.

"It feels good, always the first rounds are tough," the World No.1 said. "I think it was a good match from both of us. She was serving very well and I was focusing on my return. At the end of the match I was focusing point-by-point and go for it if I had the chance, and I'm happy I'm through."

To her credit, Kerber kept a high level throughout the 94-minute encounter, stretching the court with 39 winners to just 18 unforced errors and breaking serve four times.

The German has twice reached the final at the Aegon International, finishing runner-up to Tamira Paszek in 2012 and Maison Keys in 2014.

"It's so nice to be back here in Eastbourne," Kerber said. "I played the finals twice...and it's raining, but it's really great to have everybody here supporting us during the week."

With second round wins, the top two seeds will look to advance to the last eight later on Wednesday, as Kerber faces Lara Arruabarrena and Halep squares off against lucky loser Tsvetana Pironkova.

The former Wimbledon semifinalist got into the draw when Birmingham champion Petra Kvitova withdrew, and made the most of a bye with a 6-0, 6-4 win over Monica Niculescu.

Source: http://www.wtatennis.com/news/halep-kerber-on-course-no1-ranking-eastbourne-opener

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