ST, Victoria,United States: Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber was given a hero’s welcome as she marked her return to her homeland with a victory that drew Germany level at 1-1 with Switzerland in the first round of the Fed Cup on Saturday.
Seven days after Kerber tamed Serena Williams in the Melbourne Park final, the world number two showed barely any signs of fatigue as she eased past Timea Bacsinszky 6-1 6-3 to the delight of the home fans.
The tie in Leipzig was one of three world group showdowns to end level on 1-1 on day one of the competition, while 2015 runners-up Russia will have plenty to do on Sunday if they are to progress any further in the women’s team competition as they trail the Netherlands 2-0.
On the eve of the tie, Dutch captain Paul Haarhuis said his country would need “a miracle” to beat four-times champions Russia.
That miracle was only one victory away after Kiki Bertens thumped Ekaterina Makarova 6-3 6-4 before little-known Richel Hogenkamp hung in for exactly four hours to tame twice grand slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-6 5-7 10-8 in the longest ever Fed Cup match.
Despite being ranked 124 places behind world number 17 Kuznetsova, Hogenkamp displayed nerves of steel to beat the 2005 record of Puerto Rican Vilmarie Castellvi who had defeated Aleksandra Wozniak of Canada in three hours 49 minutes.
While Russian captain Anastasia Myskina will have to rally her troops, who include Maria Sharapova, to make a strong comeback in Moscow on Sunday, other nations will also be hoping for better performances from their top players.
Long-standing reputations counted for little in the tussle between champions Czech Republic and Romania.
The top-ranked players for both countries were beaten as first Romanian world number three Simona Halep went down 6-7(4) 6-4 6-2 to Karolina Pliskova then twice Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova missed the chance to put the Czechs 2-0 ahead when she was stunned 6-3 6-4 by Monica Niculescu.
France and Italy were also tied at 1-1 in Marseilles.
The nations will contest two reverse singles and a doubles rubber on Sunday, with the winners of each tie progressing to the quarter-finals in April.