MADRID, Spain - No.7 seed Kiki Bertens became the first woman to win the Mutua Madrid Open title without dropping a set after a stunning performance against two-time champion Simona Halep, triumphing 6-4, 6-4 in the championship match.
Bertens had to fight past three Grand Slam winners during her impressive week in the Spanish capital, taking down Jelena Ostapenko, Sloane Stephens and Petra Kvitova - to whom she lost in last year’s final - along with the always-dangerous Anastasija Sevastova and Katerina Siniakova.
Across the net in the final stood a player with even more history at this tournament: Halep, the reigning French Open champion claimed back-to-back titles here in 2016-2017. She was gunning for a record-tying third Madrid title, a feat that would have seen her return to the WTA World No.1 ranking should she have won.
But Bertens had other ideas, and the Dutchwoman was the dominant player from the start to finish against Halep. She fired 25 winners and four aces - bringing her WTA-tour leading count to 219 in 2019 - en route to a solid straight-sets win.
“I'm just really happy,” Bertens grinned in her post-match press conference. “I think after every title you feel something, of course. Sometimes it's a lot of emotions. Sometimes it is really happiness. Sometimes it's just like not believing. But right now, I don't know yet how I feel. I just feel really happy.
“I am really proud of this week. I played some good tennis. No. 4 in the world on Monday, so it's, yeah. I don't know, it is just all amazing things.”
Both players were dialed in from the start at the Caja Magica on Saturday, with Bertens dictating play with her forehand and Halep covering the court with her speed. Halep took advantage of some vulnerable second serves from Bertens to earn the first lead with a break at 3-1, but Bertens replied in kind, peppering in some dropshots to wrongfoot the Romanian and break straight back.
Halep and Bertens stayed level after the two more breaks that followed, staying on serve at 4-4. But Bertens was playing with confidence, and her tennis found another level as she broke for a crucial 5-4 lead after some powerful backhands before serving out the set with ease.
— WTA (@WTA) May 11, 2019
Bertens made it six games in a row against Halep as she opened the second set with an early break, backing it up for a 2-0 lead. The Romanian stopped the rot in style, dialing up the aggression and forcing errors out of Bertens to level the score at 2-2. But Bertens once again replied in kind, painting the lines with her groundstokes to reestablish her lead once again.
The two players steadily marched toward the finish line, with Bertens saving a crucial break point to keep her lead at 5-3. Finally Bertens claimed the victory after pulling Halep wide and hitting a perfectly out-of-reach dropshot to win the match - and the title.
.@kikibertens captures the biggest title of her career defeating Simona Halep 6-4, 6-4!
She becomes the first player to win the @MutuaMadridOpen title without dropping a set. pic.twitter.com/i1Aznngb3D
— WTA (@WTA) May 11, 2019
“I think I played very solid today,” Bertens said. “I think at the beginning, I was a little bit searching for my game still, but I think the rest of the match I played really solid, really smart, and I was just going for my shots.
“Maybe a little bit lucky like on the 4-3 game when I hit the ball in the fence and it hit her, but sometimes you need a little luck,” she laughed. “But no, I'm just happy how I was able to finish the match.”
Even sweeter for Bertens, today’s victory will see the Dutch player break into the WTA Top 5 for the first time, rising to a career-high World No.4 ranking on Monday. As a result, she will be the highest-ranked Dutchwoman in history.