WTA Stuttgart: Svetlana Kuznetsova suffers huge scare against Kiki Bertens

In a battle between two Top 20 players, Svetlana Kuznetsova triumphed in straight sets as she managed to overcome the tough fight from defending Roland Garros semifinalist Kiki Bertens, coming through after more than 150 minutes.

WTA Stuttgart: Svetlana Kuznetsova suffers huge scare against Kiki Bertens
Svetlana Kuznetsova moves on to the second round | Photo: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography
Svetlana Kuznetsova
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Kiki Bertens

In a blockbuster first-round match at the Stuttgart Open, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Kiki Bertens played the match of the tournament so far as the Russian and eighth seed triumphed in three tight sets after a marathon 155 minutes. With both players playing their best tennis and putting up a good performance for the spectators, it seems like an excellent clay court season will be incoming for both of them.

Kuznetsova strolls to the first set

Bertens made a bright start to the match as she narrowly held her serve to 30 and clinch the opening game, with her serve looking on point immediately at the start. Bertens had every opportunity to go on the offense in that game as her strong serve aided her greatly, but Kuznetsova managed to hit an incredible forehand while on the defense to save a game point. However, the Dutch eventually converted her second game point with a strong backhand winner at the net.

Kuznetsova seemed on course for a comfortable service hold of her own in the next game as she went up 40-15 in her opening service game, but suffered a huge scare as she was pegged back to deuce twice by Bertens as she made a huge threat to break serve. Nevertheless, good serves saved Kuznetsova from the brink after her first serves clinched her the nervy service hold to level the scores.

Svetlana Kuznetsova in action | Photo: Adam Pretty/Bongarts
Svetlana Kuznetsova in action | Photo: Adam Pretty/Bongarts

Another service hold seemed to be incoming as Bertens earned two game points in the next game, but Kuznetsova stepped up her game to make the first breakthrough and take the early lead as Bertens made a costly backhand volley unforced error on break point. The Russian almost lost the lead in the next game as she fell behind 0-30 in the following game, with unforced errors starting to come off her racquet more often.

Fortunately, Kuznetsova started to play her best tennis at the right time as she rattled off four straight points to consolidate the break, winning the crucial point at 30-30 by hitting a world-class forehand down-the-line winner. From then, Bertens started to make her way back as she had yet another close service hold before she broke for the first time thanks to an inconsistent service game played by Kuznetsova, leveling the scores all of a sudden.

Kiki Bertens in action | Photo: Adam Pretty/Bongarts
Kiki Bertens in action | Photo: Adam Pretty/Bongarts

She then had the chance to take the lead in the match but failed to capitalize on two game points as Kuznetsova stormed to break straight back, regaining the lead. Serving to consolidate the break, the Russian once again had some troubles as Bertens earned a break point this time. She came up with some excellent shots, including the one at deuce where she hit a backhand winner out of nowhere when being on the defense, bringing up the break point.

However, Kuznetsova’s serves were still too good for the Dutch and thus allowing her to consolidate the break and be just one game away from winning the set. Serving to stay in the set, Bertens succumbed to the pressure and unforced errors continued to prove costly, eventually gifting Kuznetsova the first set with a scoreline of 6-3 after 52 minutes.

Svetlana Kuznetsova hits a backhand slice | Photo: Adam Pretty/Bongarts
Svetlana Kuznetsova hits a backhand slice | Photo: Adam Pretty/Bongarts

Bertens steals the set at the last moment

The second set was surprisingly tight in terms of the scoreboard as both players looked very solid on their serves with neither of them looking to give their service games up. Carrying the momentum over from the first set, Kuznetsova held her serve comfortably to start the second set on a positive note. Many thought that Bertens would run out of steam and will not be able to provide a tough fight in the second set, but she proved everybody wrong when she held her service games firmly and constantly threatened to break serve and take the lead.

However, the first chance for a break came in the fourth game where Kuznetsova took a 15-30 lead on Bertens’ serve but was unable to come up with any break point opportunities. Bertens also had the same lead in the seventh game, but Kuznetsova stepped up her serves to secure her service games tightly and prevented herself from falling behind. The first break point of the set finally came our way in the ninth game as it was surprisingly Bertens who almost managed to make the first breakthrough, but she missed it with a backhand unforced error into the net.

Kiki Bertens hits a volley | Photo: Adam Pretty/Bongarts
Kiki Bertens hits a volley | Photo: Adam Pretty/Bongarts

Bertens failed to find her way back in that particular game as unforced errors continued to cost her greatly on the crucial points, allowing Kuznetsova to narrowly hold her serve to just be a game away from victory. Serving to stay in the match, Bertens showed some great mental toughness to hold her serve and fight off the tough resistance of Kuznetsova, keeping her in the match and increase her chances of sending the match into a deciding set.

This time, Bertens had the golden opportunity to break serve as she earned two break points at 5-5. She finally managed to convert it as she hit a perfect volley drop shot winner to seal the first break of the whole second set, breaking at the last moment to have the chance to serve out the set. Being too passive proved to be ineffective for Kuznetsova as she allowed Bertens to comfortably serve out the set to 30, leveling the match all of a sudden after the 52-minutes second set.

Kiki Bertens celebrates winning the second set | Photo: Adam Pretty/Bongarts
Kiki Bertens celebrates winning the second set | Photo: Adam Pretty/Bongarts

Kuznetsova slides her way to victory

Kuznetsova then found herself in deeper trouble when Bertens found a break point chance in the opening game of the final set, having the golden opportunity to take the early lead. However, the Russian then came up with some of her best aggressive tennis to save the break point and eventually hold her serve in the tight game, coming up with some impressive shots in the process. After Bertens held her serve too, Kuznetsova had her first comfortable service hold to love in the whole match.

The Dutch showed that she is also capable of such things when she duplicated Kuznetsova’s service game in the next game, holding her serve to love too. The first break points of the final set finally surfaced in the sixth game as Bertens started to make a string of unforced errors at the crucial points yet again, allowing Kuznetsova to make the first breakthrough and take the lead, looking on course for the victory.

Svetlana Kuznetsova hits a forehand | Photo: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography
Svetlana Kuznetsova hits a forehand | Photo: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

Consolidating the break of serve, Kuznetsova placed herself in an advantageous situation to close out the match as she owned a formidable lead of 5-2. Similar to the first set, Bertens struggled while serving to stay in the match as her inconsistent play continued to come by at the most crucial moments. A strong serve managed to save a match point for her, which eventually gave her the nervy service hold to stay in the match for at least one more day, forcing Kuznetsova to serve the match out.

The Russian did not disappoint as she comfortably served out the match to love, showing some great mental skills there, sealing the victory after a marathon 2 hours and 35 minutes. Bertens was the far more aggressive player here, hitting 40 winners and 38 unforced errors, while Kuznetsova had 25 winners and the same amount of unforced errors.

Svetlana Kuznetsova celebrates her victory | Photo: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography
Svetlana Kuznetsova celebrates her victory | Photo: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography