CHARLESTON, SC, USA -- No.12 seed Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands saved one match point in the semifinals of the Volvo Car Open on Sunday, moving past No.7 seed Madison Keys of the United States, 6-4, 6-7(2), 7-6(5), to advance to the biggest final of her career.
Heavy rain forced a 24-hour postponement of this tilt, but Bertens still retained her clay-court mastery, advancing past 2015 Volvo Car Open runner-up Keys in a grueling two hours and 42 minutes. Bertens broke Keys eight times off of 13 chances during the barnburner. Bertens also had to rebound from the loss of two match points in the second set before eventually prevailing in the deciding-set tiebreak.
The Dutchwoman had beaten Keys in their only prior meeting, which was also on clay. Bertens ousted the American in the fourth round of Roland Garros in 2016, en route to the best Grand Slam performance of her career, where she reached the semifinals before losing to Serena Williams.
Bertens will now play the first Premier-level final of her career against either No.5 seed Julia Goerges of Germany or No.8 seed Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia. Goerges and Sevastova commenced their semifinal match yesterday, but had play suspended at 4-4 in the first set due to the inclement weather.
Three consecutive breaks started the opening set before Bertens staved off three break points to get through a protracted game and hold for 3-1. But Keys took advantage of another lengthy game on the Dutchwoman’s serve, pulling through a six-deuce game to break Bertens with heavy service returning, and getting level at 3-3.
But the American could not maintain the momentum, as the strong groundstrokes by Bertens persisted in forcing errors from Keys. Bertens took another break lead for 4-3, and then held at love with a lob to go up 5-3.
More miscues by Keys gave Bertens a set point in the American’s next service game, but it was fended off, forcing Bertens to close out the set on her own delivery. The Dutch No.1 was up to the challenge, clinching the opening frame after another Keys forehand went wide. Both players had 6 winners in the set, but Keys could not recover from 24 unforced errors.
Another early exchange of breaks occurred in the second set, but Keys started to clean up her game, and stayed with Bertens through 3-3. The American then took a lead in the set by breaking Bertens in a long game at 4-3, giving Keys a chance to tie up the match at one set apiece.
But the Keys errors returned in force at an inopportune time, and Bertens quickly got back on serve at 5-4. Keys continued to be error-prone in her next service game, and a failed drop shot on break point gave Bertens a 6-5 lead and an opportunity to serve for the match.
Quality serving by the Dutchwoman gave her two match points in the next game, but Keys maneuvered past the first with a big forehand, and the second with a putaway after Bertens punched a volley right back to the American. A backhand unforced error by Bertens handed the break back, sending the set to a tiebreak, which Keys utterly dominated.
Both players held through to 4-4 in the deciding set before the fireworks began. Keys broke to lead 5-4 after a double fault by Bertens, giving her a chance to serve out the match. A backhand error wide by the Dutchwoman led Keys to a match point of her own, but the American squandered it with a forehand error into the net, and Bertens eventually broke back for 5-5.
Bertens then dropped serve for a second consecutive time after Keys pulled off more dominating forehands, and the No.7 seed served for the match once more. But a heavy Bertens forehand set up a break point, which she converted with an overhead winner, and the combatants headed into a tiebreak to decide the match.
In the breaker, Bertens took an early 3-1 lead after multiple Keys forehands went awry, but the American rallied back to 3-3. However, Bertens found some stunning crosscourt forehands to force errors from Keys, and eventually pulled to 6-5 and a third match point, over an hour after her first two. This time, a Keys backhand error went into the net and Bertens gleefully took her spot in the final.
More to follow...