Kiki Bertens continues her bid for a second straight St. Petersburg title when she faces Russia's Ekaterina Alexandrova in the semi-finals on Saturday.
Kiki Bertens vs Ekaterina Alexandrova is live from St. Petersburg on Saturday, 15 February from 12:30pm GMT/ 3:30pm local time
Bertens has already got past two home players this week, taking down Veronika Kudermetova and Anastasia Potapova to advance to her first semi-final of 2020.
The world No. 8 opened with a comfortable 6-1 6-2 victory over Kudermetova in her tournament opener, but she was pushed a lot harder by Potapova on Friday, battling back from 2-5 down in the second set, saving three set points before emerging with a 6-4 7-6 victory.
Bertens saved 14 of 17 break points in total, while she was a lot more efficient with her own opportunities, converting four of the six break chances that came her way against the Russian young gun. It wasn’t the greatest performance by the defending champion, who struck eight double faults and five aces, and was limited to just 34% of points on her first serve, but she managed to scrap her way through, and maintain her bid for a second consecutive title in the Russian city.
“It was a tough battle today. I think she played well especially in the second set,”, said Bertens, who is on a 6-0 run in St. Petersburg. “She kept fighting and going for her shots. I think today wasn’t the best tennis from my side, but I managed – I don’t know how – to win in two sets”.
“In the second set, we had really long rallies. I had to run a lot and the points were really long. She’s a great fighter on the court, so sometimes the points were taking forever, and I was just trying to hang in there.”
It’s been a steady start to the year for Bertens, who opened with a quarter final in Brisbane (lost to Naomi Osaka), and made the fourth round at the Australian Open (lost to Garbine Muguruza). The 28-year-old has been a top-ten player since October 2018, and rose as high as No. 4 in May last year after surging to a maiden Premier Mandatory title in Madrid.
Bertens was also champion in St. Petersburg, beating Ysaline Bonaventure, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Aryna Sabalenka and Donna Vekic, while she was a beaten finalist in s-Hertogenbosch, Palermo and at the WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai.
Can she proceed to a 15th career final when she faces the impressive Ekaterina Alexandrova on Saturday?
“We’ll see how it goes tomorrow. It’s another Russian, so I think I’ll again have the crowd against me,” Bertens joked. “For me, that’s all fine. I’m just going to prepare as good as I can for tomorrow and I’m ready for a big fight.”
Alexandrova booked her spot in the St. Petersburg semi-finals after third seed, Petra Kvitova withdrew from their scheduled quarter final on Friday due to illness.
The 25-year-old has still only lost one match this season, having opened her season by winning her maiden tour-level title in Shenzhen, before reaching the third round at the Australian Open, where she was beaten 6-1 6-2 by Kvitova. She then played a pivotal role as Russia defeated Romania to reach the Fed Cup Finals, winning her two singles rubbers, and has continued her excellent form this week in St. Petersburg.
Alexandrova started off her week with a 6-4 3-6 6-4 victory over Daria Kasatkina, before taking out Donna Vekic 6-1 7-5 to reach the quarter finals. She was gifted a free pass into the semi-finals when Kvitova pulled out on Friday.
The Russian has finished inside the top-100 in each of the last three seasons, but it was in 2019 that she made her most telling move, breaking inside the top-50 and finishing at No. 35, then a career-high. She made a first WTA final in Linz, while she was a semi-finalist in Budapest and Seoul, and a quarter-finalist in St. Petersburg, s-Hertogenbosch, Eastbourne, and Moscow. She also claimed the WTA 125K title in Limoges at the end of the year.
Alexandrova has made an even more spectacular start to 2020- can she reach her second final of the year by taking down the defending champion, Bertens in their first meeting in St. Petersburg on Saturday?
Being the second seed and the defending champion, Bertens goes in as the favourite, but Alexandrova has been excellent this year, and has definitely got a very big shot at the win on Saturday.