MELBOURNE, Australia -- No.9 seed Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands opened her 2019 Australian Open campaign on Monday with a straight-set win over Alison Riske of the United States, 6-3, 6-3.
"It was a tough one," Bertens told the press, after her victory. "I think the conditions were a little bit tough, a little bit kind of a swirly wind out there. But I was serving really good, and I’m happy with the way I played today."
Bertens came into the match having won both of her previous encounters with 56th-ranked Riske, and extended her undefeated record against the American after 66 minutes of play. The Dutchwoman comes into Melbourne in strong form, having reached the semifinals at the Sydney International last week before falling to Ashleigh Barty in a tight three-set affair.
Bertens continued to play well, blasting 20 winners in the match against Riske, half of those being aces. Bertens faced only one break point on the day, which she saved, and while both players had a solid winning percentage off of their first serves, Bertens won two-thirds of points on her second serve, while Riske only won 36 percent of points via her second delivery.
"Yesterday was also nice and warm, so we had a good hit out there on the court I was playing on today," Bertens continued. "It’s quite fast out there, but my serve was really working well today, and also the strokes were quite aggressive, so it was really working."
Bertens has a challenging second-round match ahead of her, as she will face former Top 15 player Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia. Pavlyuchenkova took out 2016 Olympic champion Monica Puig of Puerto Rico, 6-4, 6-3, earlier on Monday.
"It’s going to be a tough one, also," Bertens said of Pavlyuchenkova. "It’s going to be a really aggressive match, hopefully I can play the same way I did today."
Sitting at her career-high ranking of World No.9, Bertens got off to a quick start, attaining a 3-1 lead by pulverizing a backhand service return down the line for a clean winner on break point. The Dutchwoman consolidated the break by closing out the 4-1 game with consecutive aces.
Riske kept herself in play in the opening set by deploying some powerful serves and holding for 4-2, saving a break point in the process. But another backhand winner down the line gave Bertens the 5-2 lead, and she claimed the one-set lead after a strong serve forced an errant return by her opponent.
In the second set, Riske only dropped one point in her first three service games en route to a 3-3 deadlock. But that streak of pristine serving came to a bitter end in the seventh game, when the American fired two unforced errors in a row to hand over a 4-3 lead to Bertens.
Bertens nearly complicated things for herself by allowing a 40-0 lead to slip away in the following game, and Riske forced an error with a solid backhand at deuce to reach break point. But Bertens erased that opportunity with an ace, and maneuvered to a hold and a 5-3 lead.
That would be the decisive juncture of the match, as Riske pushed a volley into the net at 30-30 in the subsequent game to give Bertens her first match point. The No.9 seed needed just the one chance, wrapping up the match then and there and setting her second-round date with Pavlyuchenkova.