Dutch Delight! Bertens Blazes to Title After Saving Match Point
By: Nick McCarvel
It was a week to remember for Kiki Bertens at the 2018 Volvo Car Open.
After saving a match point early Saturday afternoon in a Titanic tussle with Madison Keys, the No. 12 seed from The Netherlands dropped just three games in a scorching championship match, beating Julia Goerges 6-2, 6-1 for the title.
It’s the biggest win of her career.
Bertens becomes the first Dutch woman to win the title here, and just the third player this season to win a tournament having saved match point en route.
Sunday itself was Titanic after rain wreaked havoc on the Saturday schedule. It was the first time in the tournament’s 18 year on Daniel Island that both the semifinals and final were played on the last day.
But that didn’t seem to bother Bertens. She had two match points herself in the second set against Keys in the opening match of the day, but couldn’t close, and it looked as though it would go the American’s way as she earned a match point serving for it at 5-4 in the third.
Keys couldn’t convert on her own match point, nor when she served for it again at 6-5. Bertens couldn’t be stopped from there, leading throughout the final-set tiebreak and capturing the match when a backhand from Keys found the tape, 6-4, 6-7(2), 7-6(5).
Goerges and Anastasija Sevastova would take the court next, the two locked at 4-all in the first set from when they started their semifinal on Saturday. Goerges would win the first set in a tiebreak, then use that momentum to carry through in the second and win in straights.
The final was set from there, with both players getting a two-hour break before the singles was set to begin.
It was Bertens who came out in form from the start and couldn’t be stopped. She won a long game at 4-2 for a 5-2 lead, then dropped just one of the final eight games.
Bertens not only becomes the first Dutch winner here and captures the biggest title of her career, but she also sets herself up well for a clay season that is often her strong point. She was semifinalist at the French Open in 2016 and has won all five of her career titles on the surface.
Goerges was trying to become the third German in five years to win here, after triumphs by Andrea Petkovic (2015) and Angelique Kerber (2015).
“She was too solid for me today,” Goerges said of Bertens. “This tournament showed me how tough I am mentally. I felt consistent this week, even when things weren’t going right I was focused. [But] she’s a hell of a player. If I have to lose to a player, I’m happy to lose to her today.”
Bertens was all smiles after the victory.
“I know I can play good on clay, but it was just a great feeling,” Bertens said of her form in the final. “But I think in the final Julia didn’t play her best, but still, I was just trying to play aggressive where I could, just to hit some balls in the court when she was playing, making some errors. So I think overall I did a really good job.”
Bertens dropped just one set (to Keys) over six matches, beating Veronica Cepede Royg, Aleksandra Krunic, Fanny Stollar, Alize Cornet, Keys and Goerges.
“It’s just unbelievable,” Bertens said of her effort this week. “I think I cannot really realize it yet, but I’m just so happy and proud I think of myself. It’s a great start of the clay court season, and yeah, hopefully still more to come, but this one I have already and I’m really happy with that.”
Bertens was without her usual coach, Raemon Sluiter, for the week, though she said he was watching and advising from afar. Elise Tamaela, who is Krunic’s coach, filled in in the latter part of the week.
Bertens said she had been sick earlier in the year, bruising a rib from coughing so much. She did not feel 100 percent until around Indian Wells time, making her win this week all that much more sweet.
She won a two-year subscription to a Volvo car that she got to help design herself on court. She was beaming over the prospect of driving it at home. For Sunday night, however, she planned on treating herself to a glass of wine.
Goerges, meanwhile, said she was after ice cream and sweets in downtown Charleston. She was two points from being knocked out in the first round, so even a bitter defeat in the final didn’t have her down.
“If someone said ‘You’ll be in the final,’ after my first match, I would think, ‘Ok, I’ll take it,’ because it didn’t go very well,” she said. “The way things are going with my career now, I am happy with it. Today did not go the way that I wanted, but I can say that I will be back in Charleston.”
One would expect Bertens to be, as well, still just 26 years old and likely to climb back up the rankings closer to her career high of No. 17 (she was No. 27 entering the week).
“I’m just going to try and do this again in the next event that I will play,” she said. “I’m just trying to play better match by match. I felt that this week in the beginning it was not great, but every match went a little bit better. And still, I think I can play better than I did this week, so I think that’s only a good thing.”
And if she can emulate this week moving forward - watch out, world.