ST PETERSBURG, Russia - With a hat trick of victories against Russian players No.2 seed Kiki Bertens returned to the final at the St. Petersburg Ladies' Trophy.
After beating Veronika Kudermetova and Anastasia Potapova in straight sets, the World No.8 was given her toughest test of the three in Saturday's semifinals against Ekaterina Alexandrova, but sealed a 6-1, 4-6, 6-1 victory over the Russian No.1 to set up a meeting with No.8 seed Elena Rybakina in Sunday's final.
While Bertens will be the first opponent for four-time Grand Slam champion and Hall of Famer Kim Clijsters when she returns to the WTA next week at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, the Dutch No.1 first had business to attend to in Russia, and needed one hour and 41 minutes to beat Alexandrova in their first-ever meeting.
"I think I started the match well at 6-1, 2-0. There were no complaints, I would say. I played a bad game on my serve, two not-so-good games, and I think she started believing," Bertens said after the match.
"In the third set, I was just trying to focus and stay in the match from the beginning. Her serve wasn't working so well in the third, so I was a little bit lucky with that."
The 2019 champion in St. Petersburg, Bertens was largely dominant in the first and third sets, despite being extended to a decider courtesy of an inspired second-set performance by World No.28 Alexandrova in the second set.
However, she bounced back with aplomb in the decider, as she lost just three points on serve and broke the Russian No.1 twice to seal a place in her first final of 2020, extending her winning streak in St. Petersburg to nine straight matches.
"It's a tough challenge every day, but every day, I keep telling myself 'Focus on the win today, try to do everything to win this match, and then tomorrow, we'll see again,'" Bertens said. "I will just give everything for the final, and then afterwards, we'll see what's happening."
Bertens will face Rybakina for the second time in a six-month span, having beaten her in straight sets en route to finishing runner-up at the Libéma Open on home soil last June.
"I remember that one. It was at my home tournament in the Netherlands. It was the semifinals and I think I played a solid match there. Of course, grass is different," Bertens said.
"For me, tomorrow is just another match, another final, which I really want to win. She's a tough player. She's playing really aggressive and she keeps fighting on the court, so I just really have to be ready."