Wimbledon 2017: Angelique Kerber struggles to beat qualifier Irina Falconi

Highlights: Kerber vs Falconi

World number one Angelique Kerber avoided an early upset as she overcame spirited American qualifier Irina Falconi to reach the second round of Wimbledon.

Kerber, who reached last year’s final, has struggled for form in 2017 and lost in the first round of the French Open.

Though not at her best against world number 247 Falconi, the 29-year-old German came through 6-4 6-4.

Kerber will play Belgium’s Kirsten Flipkens for a place in round three.

“The first round here is always tough,” said Kerber.

“It was a good match from both of us and it is always good to have a difficult match in the first round. She had nothing to lose; she came from through the qualifiers.

Kerber won the Australian and US Open in 2016 and reached the final of Wimbledon, where she lost 7-5 6-3 to Serena Williams.

She initially showed glimpses of her best form on her return to Centre Court on Tuesday, racing into a 3-0 lead in the first set.

However, 15 unforced errors and an impressive display by Falconi meant Kerber had to work for her place in the second round.

Analysis: ‘A step in the right direction’

Nine-time Wimbledon singles champion Martina Navratilova

Kerber said the memories of last year’s final came back. She came out playing like she did last year in the finals.

She needs to get into that mindset more if she wants to get into the final again.

It was definitely a much better performance than we have seen so far this year. She still needs to be more aggressive but it was a step in the right direction.

Pavlyuchenkova out as Muguruza goes through

Pavlyuchenkova reached the quarter-finals of Wimbledon last year

Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the 16th seed, became the highest-ranked woman to be knocked out as she lost 3-6 7-6 (8-6) 9-7 against Australian qualifier Arina Rodionova.

Victory for Rodionova, who is ranked 166th, was her first singles win at a Grand Slam.

Spain’s 23-year-old Garbine Muguruza, seeded 14th, beat Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia 6-2 6-4 to progress in just over an hour.

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