BRISBANE, Australia -- A brutal draw at the first Premier event of the 2019 WTA season barely went the way of World No.9 Kiki Bertens, as the 6th-seeded Dutchwoman overcame World No.12 -- but unseeded -- Elise Mertens of Belgium, 6-2, 6-7(6), 6-4, at the Brisbane International on Monday.

After easing through the opening set, Bertens dropped a tricky second set, before rebounding at the end to book her place in the second round, after two-and-a-half hours of play. It was Bertens' first win over Mertens in three tries, as the Belgian had emerged triumphant in their two previous meetings, which both came in 2017.

Bertens will now face either Croatia's Donna Vekic or Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia in the second round of Brisbane later in the week.

Both players had chances to break in the early going of the encounter, but they were all fended off as the combatants stayed on serve through 3-2. However, it was the Dutchwoman who eventually took the initial lead, blasting one of her powerful forehands for a winner on her second break point of the set to lead 4-2.

Big-serving Bertens did not look back from that point of the set, cruising through her next service game to inch to 5-2, and clinching a second service break after a Mertens forehand error to claim a fourth straight game and close out the first set.

Mertens finally took a chance in a Bertens service game, breaking the Dutch player in the first game of the second set on her eighth opportunity in the tilt, after a Bertens backhand flew wide. The Belgian was spurred on by that turn of events, claiming a second break and a 3-0 lead following a Bertens double fault on break point.

The Belgian had three chances to lead 4-0 before Bertens recovered her game, breaking for 3-1 and again at 4-3 to claw back on serve. The duo advanced from there to the tiebreak, where the players volleyed minibreaks back and forth up to 6-6.

But a rash of unforced errors from Bertens sealed her fate at the tail end of the breaker, and it was Mertens who weathered the storm and leveled the battle at one set apiece.

More to follow...