US Open Betting: Kerber makes a first round statement that she's here to win
Ralph Ellis sees signs that Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber is ready to follow up her Centre Court triumph with another Grand Slam...
"She is [9.4] to collect the fourth Grand Slam title of her career as the US Open winner and that has to represent far better value than backing [6.0] favourite Serena."
On the face of it, a first round win against a US Open rookie ranked 370 in the world should tell you very little about the prospects of Angelique Kerber following up her Wimbledon triumph with another Grand Slam win.
If anything the fact that the 30-year-old German had to struggle through a first set tie-break, and dropped her own serve twice before coming through 7-6 6-3 would be a cause for worry.
But in the world of women's tennis where it gets harder and harder to pick a winner at any of the big tournaments, I'd actually class Kerber's victory over Russian Margarita Gasparyan last night as a significant reason to consider backing her to go on and lift the title.
A couple of months after so memorably ending the hopes of Serena Williams to make a statement on behalf of working mums on centre court, Kerber could be ready to ruin the romantic story a second time.
She is [9.4] to collect the fourth Grand Slam title of her career as the US Open winner and that has to represent far better value than backing [6.0] favourite Serena.
She defied searing heat
Wind the clock back a year and Kerber, the 2016 champion, was a complete mess as she got wiped away by Japan's Naomi Osaka at the same stage.
After threatening to dominate the sport she'd lost her way completely and her Flushing Meadows failure was symptomatic of a complete lack of focus or intensity about her play.
This time in the searing heat that has made the first round of the US Open a gruelling physical trial she found a way to win against an opponent whose ranking belies her talent - Gaspayran had reached 25 in the world before being hit by a serious injury from which she is only just recovering.
Kerber's form since Wimbledon does nothing to inspire you, admittedly. She took a few weeks off but then suffered early exits at both Toronto and Cincinatti.
But her work with coach Wim Fissette is very much focused around being right for the Grand Slams and her mental approach looked far better as she clung in during a tough first set before confirming her dominance later in the match.
Strong record against Serena
Fissette, who took Jo Konta to last year's Wimbledon semi-final, has made a significant difference since the pair started working together at the back end of 2017.
He's made Kerber's serve far more aggressive - it is up to 5mph faster - and has also tweaked a few technical things to give her the armoury to follow that up.
Significantly he's also helped her find the belief that her 2016 run, when she held three of the four Grand Slams - was no fluke. She isn't scared of anybody - and particularly not Serena with a record of five wins out of their ten meetings.
With number one seed Simona Halep already out there's a big opportunity opening up for Kerber, who certainly shouldn't be scared of a second round meeting with Johanna Larsson.
The route to any Grand Slam title win tends to start slowly but the important thing is to hang in and reach week two. Kerber's proving she can do that, and from there has the credentials to go all the way.