PARIS, France – No.5 seed Kiki Bertens survived a scare before moving through to the second round of Roland Garros with a 2-6, 6-2, 6-0 victory over Katarina Zavatska. 

Seeking her first win since the suspension of the WTA Tour due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2016 French Open semifinalist suffered in the opening set against an opponent in inspired form.

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Bertens, who had retired injured from her previous match in Strasbourg due to achilles trouble, tightened her game up thereafter and attacked her 20-year-old opponent’s serve, doing enough to move through in two hours and seven minutes.

“It was really tough. She started really well and I was rushing a bit. It’s really tough to play aggressive here and to hit winners. In the second and third set I was much more patient,” she said.

“The court was really heavy to begin with and I wasn't using my legs so well. In the second set, the movement was better and I was using more forehand move, so it was a little bit easier for me to play.”

Zavatska’s Grand Slam debut had been made at the US Open last month but there were no signs of inexperience or nerves in an opening set that she played to a high standard. She was aggressive with her game plan and positive in its execution as she sought to reach the net, where she displayed excellent touch.

By contrast, Bertens was toiling to find her best level. She would spray 19 unforced errors in the opening to just 11 winners, while her usually reliable serve was not firing to anything like its potential in cool conditions.

The net result was that Zavatska dominated the opening set, having built from the base of a strong start.

“I liked the way she played in the first set,” Bertens admitted. “She played solidly, moving really well. She couldn't miss! She hit all the lines and I wasn't patient enough.”

Bertens, though, had shown improvement towards the end of the opening frame, batting off six set points before eventually succumbing, and that subtle change of momentum became a torrent in the second.

The Zavatska serve was brutally targeted by the WTA World No.8, who started to play more consistently, winning the lengthy exchanges that were not going her way in the early stages of the match.

Indeed, she would break her opponent’s serve on all four occasions in the second set, and though her own was still not operating to full capacity, she moved level with a steady hold.

The certainty that Zavatska had shown in her game during the first 45 minutes was now lost, and that trend continued as the touch she showed at the net deserted her at the beginning of the deciding set, leading to an early break.

Luck was also working against the Ukrainian, who saw a string break when she held a break point, then two more go in quick succession thereafter, forcing a hasty racquet change. 

Bertens, meanwhile, was now firmly in her groove, taking the initiative increasingly as the match progressed.

Her returning was formidable, and in the deciding set she lost only four points when Zavataska was serving. Indeed, she broke her opponent on eight successive occasions as she roared back into the match.

The Madrid champion had no problems closing the match out to improve her record to 21-1 against opponents outside the Top 100 since 2019.

In the second round, she will face another in the form of Sara Errani, though the 33-year-old has impressive Paris pedigree, having reached the 2012 final.

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