SINGAPORE - No.8 seed Kiki Bertens outlasted top seed Angelique Kerber in the final opening match of the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global on Monday, rallying for a 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory in the Red Group.
The last woman into the field, Bertens bounced back after a first set blowout to stun the Wimbledon champion, ultimately coming from a set and a break down to win in just over two hours.
The doubles finalist last year in Singapore, Bertens not only earned a win in her singles debut at the WTA Finals, but closed the book on some recent history in the process.
For the first time in the round-robin format, all four lower seeds won their opening round matches, as Elina Svitolina, Karolina Pliskova and Sloane Stephens all recorded victories in the first matches of the tournament over the first two days.
"I'm really happy to get the win here today," Bertens said on-court after the match. "It was a slow start but I was really happy to turn around this match. I had a little chat with my coach when it wasn't going so well, so we decided to go a little bit more for my shots, play a little more aggressive and it worked out."
The victory is Bertens' tour-leading 11th over a Top 10 player this season, but she needed to do it the hard way after losing the opening set in just about 30 minutes.
Kerber continued to build momentum early in the second set, and ultimately held a 6-1, 2-0 lead in the match before Bertens secured her first break of serve to level proceedings at 2-2.
"Honestly, beginning of the second, I was just like hopefully I can get a few more games. I was really like playing not good, stressing a little bit too much, thinking about playing bad," Bertens added.
"Then I had a chat with Raemon. Our tactics were not like really working at that moment. He was, like, 'Okay, then just try to turn this around, try to play more aggressive, go for your shots, and then we see.' That went a little better from there on."
Each woman broke serve six times in the match, and the Dutch World No.9 overcame 12 double faults on her own delivery in the match to secure two key holds in the final set.
Bertens' dug out of a 0-40 hole to snap a string of seven straight breaks in the decider - capping the game with one of her five aces for the match - and later sealed the victory with a forehand winner - her 25th finisher in the match overall.
"In the third set, I started good with the break. Then she broke me, and then I had some game points on my serve but didn't make them, a few more errors there," said Bertens.
"You feel like every game is really close, but still in her service games I tried to play aggressive. At the end, I just went for my serve, and sometimes it went in and sometimes not.
"Hopefully for the next match I can go out there, play a little bit more like how I want to play, feel a little bit better on court from the beginning, not stressing too much, not thinking about too much about how to hit my shots, and just go out there and try to play my game."