World no. 8 and the no. 2 seed from the Netherlands Kiki Bertens has come from 2-5 down in the first set to claim the St Petersburg title after a 7-6(2), 6-4 defeat of Croatia’s Donna Vekic.
“It’s a great feeling to hold the trophy,”
“It’s a great feeling to hold the trophy,” Bertens said after the match. “It was a really tough week. Every tournament has its challenges, but I think I played great the whole week. I didn’t start good today, but I was still able to turn the match around, so I’m really proud of that.”
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Photo: Kiki Bertens of Netherlands kisses the trophy of the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy-2019 tennis tournament final match in St.Petersburg, Russia, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019. (Photo by Anatoliy Medved/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Vekic earned the first break point of the match in the opening game when Bertens was forced into an error and sent a backhand sailing long at the end of a 20 shot rally. The point was converted after a deep return from Vekic was then hit wide from a Bertens’ forehand.
In the seventh game, Bertens hit an inside out forehand wide to give Vekic another breakpoint. It was converted when the Croatian hit a service return down the line and deep into the corner, Bertens sent the next shot into the crowd as she framed the ball on the full stretch.
With Vekic serving for the set, Bertens jumped out to 0-40 to hold three break points. The first was converted after Vekic poorly executed a drop volley that Bertens was able to chase down and then hit a winner.
Bertens was now hitting the ball with more authority and serving well, she held for 5-4 with Vekic again serving for the set. Bertens had won 9 of the past 10 points when she won the first point of the 10th game. Bertens completed her comeback after again breaking to love as Vekic hit into the net.
Games then went with serve for the players to arrive at a tiebreak. Bertens got the first minibreak when Vekic weakly hit the ball into the net. A drop shot winner on the end of some good defence saw Bertens take another point against serve for 3-0. A backhand into the net from the no. 2 seed gave one minibreak back.
Vekic would hit a shot into the net, then Bertens hit long for the players to change ends at 4-2. From there it was all Bertens as she secured the first set.
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Photo: Donna Vekic of Croatia returns the ball during the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy tennis tournament final match on February 03, 2019, at Sibur Arena in St. Petersburg, Russia. (Photo by Anatoliy Medved/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
A badly missed backhand that went wide from Vekic saw Bertens with three break points in the third game. A double fault gifted the break to Bertens for her to lead 2-1. Bertens then would hold comfortably to consolidate the break.
Bertens looked to run away with the set as she jumped to a 0-30 lead in the fifth game before Vekic won the next four points to get back on track. During the change of ends, Torben Beltz went courtside to provide some coaching for Vekic.
In the game that followed Vekic took advantage of a double fault and then a weak second serve to blast a forehand down the line to bring up a break point. Bertens saved that with a forehand winner of her own after a good first serve presented a midcourt return that Bertens stepped in to hit away for the winner.
At deuce it was Bertens on the attack and she pushed Vekic wide and deep, the Croatian put up a poorly placed lob that Bertens the badly mistimed off a swinging volley, the result was the ball hitting halfway up the net and another break point opportunity for the world no. 30. After some good deep hitting from Vekic she finally stepped in to hit a good deep forehand winner to seal the break.
The scores were level at 3-3 at Vekic stepped up to serve and the match could go either way after not long before it was Bertens that looked in control. Vekic was now stepping into her groundstrokes and hitting with good power and placement, but then would hit an unforced error. Bertens’ forehand was starting to miss the mark. Two unforced errors on the forehand side from Bertens saw Vekic jump out to a 4-3 lead.
This time is was Bertens that called for her coach Raemon Sluiter for some coaching. His advice seemed to help as Bertens comfortably won her next service game and then broke Vekic for a 5-4 lead. Bertens brought up the first break point with a well-controlled volley winner. Vekic would save one after attacking the net but a second double-fault in the game surrended the break.
Bertens thought she had served out the next game to love as a shot from Vekic looked to have gone out, after raising her arms in victory Bertens had to continue in the match after the review showed that the ball was in. After holding three championship points things suddenly turned around and the score was at deuce.
An unforced error by Vekic as she hit the ball into the net gave Bertens a fourth championship point. On the next point the ball hit the net cord and then landed short, Vekic got a racquet to the ball but could not keep it in play. The championship was Bertens’ as she claimed her third Premier level title and her eighth of her career.
Both players hit 33 unforced errors, but the no.2 seed struck 27 winners to just 16 from Vekic. The Croatian jumped five places to no. 25 on the rankings while Bertens remained at no. 8.