LONDON, Great Britain - No.4 seed Kiki Bertens had to come back from match point down in the second set against unseeded American Taylor Townsend, but pulled off the escape act in style to move into the third round at Wimbledon.
23-year-old Townsend, a 2013 Wimbledon junior finalist, came into the tournament without any matches on grass - but she acquitted herself admirably by scoring her second career main draw Wimbledon win over Arina Rodionova in the previous round.
She was going for her first career Top 10 win against No.4 seed Kiki Bertens - who lifted trophies at St. Petersburg and Madrid earlier in the season - established herself as a tournament favorite after a strong grass swing, where she reached the final in ‘s-Hertogenbosch and semifinals in Eastbourne.
She found herself in big trouble as the American took the opening set and charged to a match point, but she stayed in the match and turned things around to win 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-2.
“I thought I was finished, to be honest,” Bertens admitted after the match. “But sometimes I'm the lucky one, I guess. I think today that was it.
“But I think it was just a great fight. I think she was playing really well, and so there was not really much I could do. Just keep on fighting, keep on believing that I could do it, and in the end I did it.”
Just one break of serve made the difference in the first set as Townsend kept Bertens under pressure. Townsend took control of the match from the start, taking the ball early and not afraid to move up to close out points at the net. She dodged a pair of Bertens’ break chances at 3-2 and then broke the No.4 seed a game later to take a 4-2 lead. She had to fight past another three more break points as she served for the set, but Townsend held firm.
Already down a set, Bertens looked to be in trouble as the American went up a break right away to lead 2-0. But that’s exactly when the World No.4 jolted to life, finding her rhythm at just the right moment to reel off four games in a row and take the lead, 5-3.
But the set had a few more twists and turns in store as Bertens fought her way to set points at 5-4, but was denied as Townsend held firm. A few games later, it was Townsend who had a look at match point at 6-5, but Bertens dug deep to deny her. In the tiebreak, Bertens finally put some distance between them as she reeled off six of seven points to send them into a decider.
With the second set in the bag, Bertens came out playing relaxed in the third set, and was quickly rewarded with a double-break, 4-0 lead. Townsend seemed to flag as the set wore on, and the Dutch player emerged victorious after two hours and 23 minutes on court.
“After winning the second set, you start believing,” Bertens said. “And then in the beginning of the third you also saw, like, she was physically a little bit tired, I would say, and then also mentally I think it was really tough on her. I was just trying to keep on going.
“Yeah, today was my day, so I'll take it and I'm just really happy that I'm still in the tournament and that I'm in the third round.”
Bertens will face another tough challenge in her next match as she takes on the always-dangerous Barbora Strycova for a spot in the fourth round. Strycova edged past Laura Siegemund, 6-3, 7-5.
“It's going to be tough again,” Bertens assessed. “Maybe today's match helps me a lot for the next match. [Strycova’s] also coming in a lot. So I will have to use a lot again the passing shots.
“Yeah, I just have to be ready again and just take this match on to the next one.”