DOHA, Qatar – No.7 seed Kiki Bertens overcame Karolina Muchova to move into the last 16 of the Qatar Total Open, 6-2, 6-4.
Coming off the back of a successful defense of her title in St Petersburg, the WTA World No.6 showed too much consistency and variety for an opponent who has stormed up the Rankings since reaching the quarterfinals in Qatar 12 months ago.
Muchova had to overcome Magda Linette to reach this juncture, but after a dominant 6-3, 6-0 win in the first round, she found the boot was on the other foot against the in-form Dutchwoman, who converted three of the four of the break points she won in the one-hour 24-minute tussle.
“I was really happy with the level I played today. My serving was great – I saved all the break points I faced – and I missed only one break point that I won, so on the important points I was there,” she said.
“I hadn’t played her before but I’d seen her play and I knew she’d be really aggressive, coming to the net so I knew I had to play aggressive myself. If she was able to play aggressive, she’d have been able to get to the net and put me under pressure.”
Bertens moved into a commanding 4-0 lead before sealing the first set in 32 minutes, and while the second was more competitive, she was able to secure the win with expert play in the key moments.
It took Bertens only eight minutes to establish a 3-0 advantage, holding on serve easily and getting a break as the Czech player went for her shots but was unable to execute them with the required accuracy.
While the seeded player was pushed harder in the following game, a combination of silky touch and powerful serving ensured she extended her already healthy advantage.
Muchova, though, was now in the contest, which became significantly more competitive as Bertens had to fight to seal the first set.
The 23-year-old was still subject to a great deal of pressure coming from the opposite end of the court in the opening game of the second and had to recover from 15-30 down to hold.
This marked something of a sea change in the match. Having had only one break point in the first, two chances to draw immediately back on terms followed but both were superbly saved by Bertens, who produced her best tennis at the crucial moments.
Throughout the frame, Bertens would find her delivery threatened, though invariably she found a way to wriggle out of trouble on each occasion. Further break points followed in both the sixth and eighth game but were mopped up.
By contrast, Muchova held to love twice but these games sandwiched a break, which came about largely due to a loose dropshot at 30-all and then an unforced error in the subsequent point.
Indeed, the only break point she would save was also a match point. The reprieve, however, was temporary as Bertens sealed the next game to 30, setting up an encounter with Zheng Saisai, Vera Zvonareva or Hsieh Su-wei in the last 16.