PALERMO, Italy -- Top seed Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands picked up another straight-set victory at the Palermo Ladies Open on Thursday, eliminating Aleksandra Krunic of Serbia, 6-3, 6-1, to reach the quarterfinals of the clay-court event.
"It's always tough to play Aleks," Bertens said after the match. "She's a really talented girl who can do a lot, using a lot of slice on short balls. I do this too, so it makes for interesting points and we had some really nice rallies."
The World No.5 brought a 2-0 head-to-head lead into her match with Krunic, both of those victories coming on clay courts. Bertens staved off a solid effort from World No.103 Krunic to maintain her undefeated record against the Serb, moving through after an hour and 18 minutes of play.
"It's a tough tournament for me, with a lot of good girls playing here. Whether I'm here or at a Grand Slam, every match is tough and I have to be 100% all the time to play my best."
Bertens, who dropped just a single game in her first-round encounter with Ekaterine Gorgodze, has ceded only five games in total en route to the Palermo quarterfinals. The Dutchwoman out-winnered Krunic by 20 to 12 on the day, and she claimed nearly 60 percent of points when the Serb served.
In the elite eight, Bertens will face Italy’s Jasmine Paolini, who upset Irina-Camelia Begu in a night session thriller that went to a final set tie-break, with Paolini ultimately advancing, 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(4),
— WTA (@WTA) July 25, 2019
"I think you guys would rather I play Paolini!" she joked with the members of the Italian press. "For me, it doesn't matter, but for the tournament, I might prefer to play an Italian player.
"It can be challenging and tough to focus, but on the other hand, it's nice to play in front of an enthusiastic crowd."
Bertens found herself in danger in her opening serve game, but erased two break points with her powerful forehand and serve respectively to hold for 1-1. In the next game, the Dutchwoman stunned Krunic by using strong net play to maneuver from 40-0 to deuce, then attaining the break for 2-1 with a backhand dropshot winner.
The top seed then started to find her range on serve, winning eight of the next nine points on her delivery to ease to a 4-2 lead. Bertens then claimed a double-break advantage after Krunic double faulted twice en route to dropping serve and putting the Dutch player up 5-2.
Bertens was unable to hold serve in the following game, hitting two double faults of her own to set up a break point for Krunic, which the Serb converted after a netted forehand miscue by the World No.5. But Bertens rebounded by breaking Krunic for a third time in the set, using her fiery forehand to force errors from her opponent before a wide Krunic backhand ended the opening frame.
— WTA (@WTA) July 25, 2019
Krunic opened the second set by breaking Bertens, deploying a forehand dropshot winner to seal the opening game. But that would be the extent of Krunic’s scoring in the set, as Bertens took control from there. The Dutchwoman broke back in the next game with a volley winner, and then earned a second break and a 3-1 lead following a topsy-turvy 10-minute game.
Bertens had a spot of bother when serving for the match at 5-1, as she had to face two break points. But Krunic missed returns on both of those chances, and Bertens closed out the victory two points later with a final ferocious forehand.
More to follow...