Serena Williams and Kiki Bertens have played out several close matches in the past — and today wasn’t an exception as the resurgent American needed almost two hours of play to get past the hard-hitting Dutch, who ultimately fell in a tight 6-7, 5-7 second-round match at the BNP Paribas Open. Failure to convert a 5-3 lead in the opening set proved costly as Bertens crumbled at the sight of the finishing line, while Williams was simply too good and fought her way to victory in straight sets.
With this win, Serena sets up a highly-anticipated third-round encounter against sister Venus Williams, in what would be their 29th career meeting. It is also their first meeting since their encounter in the final of the 2017 Australian Open, where Serena won while being eight-weeks pregnant.
Williams retrieves from a deficit to triumph
The 23-time Grand Slam champion had the perfect start into the match after she fired down a perfect a service game, with her serve nearing a return to its best level soon. Unexpectedly, it was Bertens who made the first breakthrough as she claimed three games on the trot, playing some outstanding tennis as she was able to force errors from the American. Riding on her momentum, the Dutch had the golden opportunity to extend her lead but failed to convert her chances as Williams sent in several well-placed serves to lessen the deficit.
An exchange of breaks followed and Bertens soon found herself serving for the first set at 5-4 up within a blink of an eye. However, nerves began to kick in and she started to produce untimely unforced errors, allowing Williams to break back ultimately.
The first set then featured a tiebreak, where just one mini-break separated both players on the scoreboard as Bertens failed to capitalize on her chances, sending a second-serve return wide and therefore, gifting Williams the first set after 54 minutes of play.
Williams overcomes slight wobble to grab the win
After losing the first set, many would have thought that Bertens will crumble mentally and be blown away in the second set. However, she came back stronger and had her chances to take the lead after earning two break points in the second game.
Nonetheless, Williams remained solid and consistent, narrowly escaping from the brink to get on board. Bertens would rue her missed opportunities, especially after several unforced errors which saw Williams take a commanding lead.
Some stunning play from Bertens ensured that Williams did not run away with the victory, though, a series of powerful winners from the American helped her to regain the lead, alongside the chance to serve out the match.
Inspired tennis from the world number 29 saw her immediately get the break back but on Williams’ second attempt to serve out the encounter, she blew two break points and the home favorite ultimately proved to be better during the crucial moments.