AP Photo

Bertens beats Sabalenka, faces Vekic in St. Petersburg final

Leave a comment

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — Kiki Bertens reached her first final since September with a 7-6 (5), 6-2 win over Aryna Sabalenka at the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy on Saturday, and will face Donna Vekic in the final.

The eighth-ranked Bertens broke Sabalenka’s serve four times and fired in nine aces as she moved to a career 3-0 record over 10th-ranked Sabalenka.

Eighth-seeded Vekic needed just 1 hour, 11 minutes to beat Vera Zvonareva 6-2, 6-2 in the second semifinal, denying the Russian veteran a first WTA final appearance since 2011.

Zvonareva defeated the top-ranked Russian Daria Kasatkina in the quarterfinals but barely made a scratch on Vekic’s serve, earning one break point which was saved.

Bertens is 7-2 in career finals and will be aiming Sunday to win her fourth title in the space of 12 months after victory at the Charleston, Cincinnati and Seoul tournaments last season.

It will be a third straight final on hard courts for Bertens, who until August had never reached any WTA final on a surface other than clay. She won both her previous hard-court finals, defeating Simona Halep in Cincinnati and Alja Tomljanovic in Seoul.

Bertens’ current ranking of eighth is the best for a Dutch woman since Betty Stove, who reached No. 5 in 1977.

Vekic reached her first final since losing to Svetlana Kuznetsova in Washington in August. The Croatian player is 2-4 in finals and 1-3 on hard courts, with her sole win on that surface coming at the 2014 Malaysian Open.

Nadal beats Ferrer to reach Barcelona Open quarterfinals

AP Photo
Leave a comment

BARCELONA, Spain — Rafael Nadal looked closer to his clay-court best again as he beat David Ferrer 6-3, 6-3 on Thursday to reach the quarterfinals of the Barcelona Open.

The 11-time Barcelona champion saved four of five break points and broke four times in what could have been his last meeting with Ferrer, who is retiring after the Madrid Open next month. It was a sign of improvement for Nadal, who lost in the semifinals in Monte Carlo last week and then needed three sets to get past Leonard Mayer in his opening match in Barcelona.

“This match was important for me,” Nadal said. “Yesterday I had a tough match. I took a step forward and was able to play with more energy.”

The top-seeded Nadal will next face either Stefanos Tsitsipas, last year’s runner-up, or Jan-Lennard Struff.

Nadal was up 5-3 in the first set before play was stopped for a rain delay. He continued to dictate the match when play resumed, serving out the set and breaking Ferrer’s next service game.

Ferrer saved three match points before finally sending a forehand into the net to give Nadal the win.

The 37-year-old Ferrer was making his last appearance at the Barcelona Open and could not hold back the tears when he received an ovation from the audience. He placed his pink headband on the court as a mark that he had played his last match here.

“I am happy to be able to finish this tournament on the center court, playing against Nadal. I gave it my all,” Ferrer said.

Also, third-seeded Dominic Thiem broke Jaume Munar five times to earn a 7-5, 6-1 victory. Fourth-seeded Kei Nishikori, who won the tournament in 2014 and 2015, brushed off Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-1, 6-3.

Grigor Dimitrov was beaten 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (2) by Nicolas Jarry, who will meet Daniil Medvedev after he beat American Mackenzie McDonald 6-3, 6-2.

Osaka opens clay campaign by beating Hsieh in Stuttgart

Getty Images
Leave a comment

STUTTGART, Germany — Top-ranked Naomi Osaka opened her clay-court season by beating Hsieh Su-wei of Taiwan 6-4, 6-3, on Thursday to reach the Porsche Grand Prix quarterfinals.

Osaka hit 22 winners and converted three of her six break points to seal the win in 1 hour, 24 minutes and set up a meeting with Donna Vekic of Croatia.

After saving two break points early, it was an unusually smooth victory for Osaka over Hsieh. She needed three sets to get past the Taiwanese veteran en route to her Australian Open victory and then lost to her at the Miami Open last month.

“I felt like this surface is more suited for me (than Hsieh),” Osaka said. “I was sort of in my plan. So, I just felt like I executed what I was trying to do.”

Two-time Stuttgart champion Angelique Kerber also advanced by beating fellow German Andrea Petkovic 6-2, 6-4. The fifth-seeded Kerber saved two break points to hold for 2-2 in the first set and then reeled off the next four games to take control. She then earned a decisive break for 4-3 in the second before closing out the win with her fourth match point.

Kerber will face sixth-seeded Kiki Bertens, who served 20 aces to rally for a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over Belinda Bencic.

No. 7 Anastasija Sevastova also advanced by beating former champion Laura Siegemund of Germany 6-4, 6-3 to set up a quarterfinal against Petra Kvitova, who advanced on Wednesday.

Vekic dispatched Russia’s Daria Kasatkina, 6-1, 7-5, earlier on Thursday.