MELBOURNE, Australia – No.9 seed Kiki Bertens progressed to the second week of a major for just the fourth time in her career as she dispatched Zarina Diyas, 6-2, 7-6(3) in the third round of the Australian Open.
Having already matched her best performance in Melbourne, the Dutchwoman produced a high level of tennis to take the opening set in 32 minutes, and while she was unable to quite match it in the second, had too much for her 26-year-old opponent in a display that saw her strike 35 winners and just 21 unforced errors.
“I think I started well, with a lot of slices, a lot of variety, that's how I wanted to play,” she said. “From there on, I needed to be more aggressive.
“Second set she started much better. I had already some opportunities the beginning, but I didn't take them. From then on, I think she played really good, coming to the net, playing really aggressive.
“It was really tough to finish that in the second set.”
During the first set, Bertens was especially good. She hit 13 winners to just eight unforced errors, made 71% of her first serves and closed the net effectively, winning five of six points in the forecourt.
Such impressive numbers rendered Diyas’ chances slim, and so it would prove as Bertens streaked into the advantage. She broke in a lengthy opening game, having led 0-40, then extended her advantage to 4-1 with a terrific dropshot winner.
Dominant on serve, she dropped only one point in the first set when her first delivery found its mark, sealing the opener against an opponent who had beaten her in their only previous meeting back in Tokyo 2015.
Diyas knuckled down impressively to make the second a more competitive battle, aided by the fact that Bertens’ level, which had been stellar in the opening half hour, finally started to dip.
The Kazak negotiated a potential crisis point at deuce with the score 2-2, but fended off that awkward moment to move ahead in the very next game as she converted her first break point of the night following a smartly constructed point.
But this simply roused the WTA World No.10, who broke back to love before squaring the set at 4-4.
Worse might have followed for Diyas as she fell 0-30 down in her next service game, though she extricated herself from trouble with a stunning volley that helped send the set towards a tiebreak.
In the breaker, Bertens continued to find her opponent difficult to shake. Twice she moved a minibreak clear only to see that advantage quickly wiped out, though a brilliant forehand pass that took her into a 5-3 advantage finally broke the resistance of an opponent who had already won a pair of two-set matches this week.
The match was closed out as Diyas fired a forehand wide, setting Bertens up with a fourth-round meeting with Garbiñe Muguruza.
“I have to play a little bit more aggressive than I did in the previous rounds,” she said of her next opponent. “I saw her match today. She played really well. I had no idea I had to play her in the next round. I think she played really well, coming to the net a lot.”