Cracking the top-10 is an achievement, but maintaining your place within the elite should be even more impressive. Kiki Bertens can be considered a late bloomer in her career after a breakthrough 2018 which saw her break new grounds in her career at the age of 27. The big-serving Dutchwoman lived up to new standards and remained in the top-10 throughout 2019, ensuring that she is not a one-season wonder.
Bertens played a heavy schedule, competing in 28 tournaments over the last 52 weeks. Tipped for more success this year, she was able to lift two titles, which could be deemed as underwhelming considering the number of tournaments she played. Losing steam towards the end of the year, Bertens failed to qualify for the WTA Finals although ultimately she did compete in Shenzhen as an alternate.
High Points: St. Petersburg, Madrid titles
Bertens had a decent start to the year after making the semifinals of the Apia International Sydney before claiming her first indoor hardcourt title at the St. Petersburg Ladies’ Trophy as the second seed. She exacted revenge against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova for her Australian Open loss in the quarterfinals, before beating fellow top-10 player Aryna Sabalenka and the talented Donna Vekic to lift her first title of the year.
Known for her excellence on clay during the early stages of her breakthrough, Bertens made the last four at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix. En route, she fired 20 aces to beat Belinda Bencic and stunned home favourite, Angelique Kerber, in straight sets before being defeated by eventual champion Petra Kvitova.
Carrying her momentum into the Mutua Madrid Open, Bertens became the first Dutchwoman to crack the top-four of the WTA rankings when she beat three top-10 players to win the biggest title of her career. Ousting former Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko and clay-court maestro Anastasija Sevastova, Bertens stunned defending champion Petra Kvitova in a repeat of the previous year’s final. She then brushed aside Sloane Stephens and upset title favourite Simona Halep to become the first woman in history to win the Madrid title without losing a set.
Bertens was an overwhelming favourite for the Roland Garros title and proved her credentials when she made the semifinals of the Internazionali BNL D’Italia despite fighting against fatigue as well.
Opting to compete in two international-level tournaments, the Dutch reached the finals on both occasions. She was unlucky not to triumph on home soil at the Rosmalen Grass Court Tennis Championships after failing to convert five match points against Alison Riske.
Towards the end of the year, a semifinal run at the China Open came out of nowhere for Bertens, which boosted her chances for WTA Finals qualification. However, ultimately she could only be the top seed at the WTA Elite Trophy.
The disappointment was obvious, but she still managed to hold everything together and barge into the final. Although she was defeated in the championship match, Bertens still managed to keep her place inside the year-end top-10. Furthermore, she was given a chance to compete at the WTA Finals after Osaka’s withdrawal and snapped her winless streak against world number one and eventual champion Ashleigh Barty in her first match.
Low Points: Fatigue and loss of steam
Grand Slams were a huge disappointment for Bertens as she failed to reach the second week at any of the four major tournaments. Notably, the Dutchwoman was forced to retire in the second round of Roland Garros due to a viral illness, missing out on a huge opportunity to prove her title credentials.
Bertens suffered three first-round exits, all of which coming in the second half of the year. Looking down-and-out after the US Open, the world number nine suffered early defeats in Zhengzhou, Osaka and Wuhan. Last attempts to qualify for Shenzhen ended in quarterfinal exits at both Linz and Moscow, followed by a lethargic 4-6, 2-6 loss to Sabalenka in the Zhuhai final.
Gifted a chance to play in Shenzhen, Bertens was just one win away from qualifying for the semifinals. Her body, after experiencing a toll throughout the year, finally broke down as she was forced to retire against Belinda Bencic in a disappointing way to end her season.
Season Grade: B
Although Bertens has been fairly solid throughout the year, she overplayed which caused her level of play to dip towards the second half of the season. On many occasions, the Dutchwoman was a victim of fatigue which proved costly. An example would be losing in the semifinals of the Internazionali BNL D’Italia, as a win against Konta would have allowed her to reach a new career high-ranking of two. 2020 should be a much better year for Bertens after changing a coach and enjoying the off-season rest.