Kiki Bertens felt fortunate to escape a tough semifinal match with a victory Sunday morning. She wasn't going to let things get so tight later on in the biggest match of her career.
Bertens of the Netherlands overpowered Germany's Julia Goerges to cap a long, chilly Sunday at the Volvo Car Open with a 6-2, 6-1 victory for her fifth career WTA title and third of the past 11 months. Bertens made it to the final by outlasting American Madison Keysas the WTA's first clay-court event of the season had to double up on play after rain Saturday washed out most of the semifinals.
Bertens was nearly ousted by Keys, saving a match point in the third set before prevailing in tiebreaker, 6-4, 6-7 (2), 7-6 (5). Preparing for Goerges several hours later, Bertens thought, ''OK, you could already have lost this morning, so just give everything and try to go for it,'' she said. ''And yeah, now I'm here with the trophy.''
Perhaps the most important one of the 26-year-old's career.
Bertens, ranked 27th in the world, had won titles last May in Nuremberg, Germany and the Swiss Open against fields not nearly as loaded with top players as here. Bertens had gone 0-15 against top-20 opponents in 2018 entering Sunday before defeating Keys (ranked 14th) and Goerges (ranked 13th) in the space of about eight hours.
''I'm just so happy and proud, I think, of myself,'' Bertens said. ''It's a great start of the clay court season, and yeah, hopefully still more to come.''
Goerges figured to be the fresher finalist, needing only about 25 minutes to finish off her semi with Latvia's Anastasija Sevastova, which was tied at 4-all in the opening set Saturday before the rain came.
But it was Bertens, ranked 27th in the world, who showed fire and drive on center court in the finals. She broke Goerges' serve twice to take a 3-1 lead and never let up.
When Goerges sailed her shot long on match point, Bertens threw her racquet in the air and held her arms up high in celebration of her latest title.
Bertens had in Nuremberg, Germany, last May and the Swiss Open in Gstaad last July. But she had a slow start to 2018 with only four match wins before winning all six of her matches here.
Bertens, 26, put things away early as she broke Goerges' serve three times to win the opening set 6-2. Bertens had a run of seven straight games before Goerges, urged on by the crowd that may not have wanted to see the tournament end, took a game to delay the celebration.
Among Bertens' prizes was two-year use of one of Volvo's luxury cars. The manufacturer is constructing a new auto plant about 25 miles west of Charleston. She got to design her new vehicle on court during the trophy presentation.
''It went so fast,'' Bertens said about the selection. ''It was like, 'Oh, what do I want? Can I still change it?' No, but it was really fun.''
Goerges, who had played crisply most of the week, figured to be the fresher finalist after finishing her semifinal win over Sevastova. But Goerges was beset by uncharacteristic errors that seemed to give Bertens more energy.
''I think that semifinal took a lot of mental effort out of me,'' Goerges said.
In the fourth game, Goerges reached the net in plenty of time for a simple drop shot with Bertens back by the baseline but pushed the shot into to the cord on the way to losing her serve.
Down 5-2 and serving, Goerges double faulted twice in a row to get broken a final time in the set.
Goerges thought she had done well all week finding answers when pressed by opponents. She came up empty against Bertens, however.
''But at the end what's counting is that you find a solution to get, yeah, to get going and to get playing well,'' Goerges said.