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.

Mertens upsets Halep in Qatar Open final

Getty Images
Leave a comment

DOHA, Qatar – Unseeded Elise Mertens came from a set and a break down to beat recent No. 1 Simona Halep 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 in the Qatar Open final and capture the biggest title of her career on Saturday.

Halep led 6-3, 2-0, then lost a service game for a third time to see the second set back on serve. Mertens continued to pressure, missing two more break chances in the seventh game but finally breaking – to love – in the ninth. The set was the first Mertens took from Halep in three matchups.

Mertens broke again to start the third set, Halep leveled at 2-2, but Mertens finished stronger and won her fifth career title.

The Belgian beat two other top-10 players this week, Kiki Bertens and Angelique Kerber.

Halep’s first final appearance since August guaranteed she will rise one spot to No. 2 in the rankings on Monday.

Thiem advances at Argentina Open; Ferrer out

Getty Images
Leave a comment

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Top-seeded defending champion Dominic Thiem of Austria advanced to the Argentina Open quarterfinals Thursday, beating Germany’s Maximilian Marterer 6-4, 6-4.

Thiem will face Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas, a 6-4, 7-5 winner over Portugal’s Joao Sousa.

Fourth-seeded Diego Schwartzman of Argentina beat Slovenia’s Aljaz Bedene 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 to set up a match against Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas. Ramos-Vinolas beat compatriot David Ferrer 3-6, 7-6 (9), 6-3.

Ferrer promised to retire in May at the Madrid Open. The participation in the Buenos Aires tournament is one of the last of the 36-year-old’s career.