SYDNEY, Australia – World No.9 Kiki Bertens made safe progress through to the second round of the Sydney International but was pushed all the way by lucky loser Bernarda Pera in a 7-5, 6-4 victory.
Pera, who was the benefactor of Johanna Konta’s withdrawal, served for the opening set but the No.7 seed found her range just in time to salvage the situation before taking a tight second.
"It was tough not knowing who I was going to play, because it changed like three times," Bertens confessed. "It's tough conditions here with really fast courts, so I really had to get used to it.
"I'm just trying the first few strokes to hit a little bit more aggressive, but on this court, it's tough. I'm really happy with the win so I get a second chance in the second round."
The American made a strong start to the match and seemed to take her opponent unawares in the opening game, in which she claimed the advantage by breaking her higher-ranked rival.
Thereafter, there was little to pick between the two players in what proved a competitive opening set. Pera more than held her own and manufactured the opportunity to close it out as she served at 5-4, only to see her opponent click into a higher gear.
Indeed, the first set, in which serve had for so long dominated, was taken by the Dutchwoman by breaking comfortably to 15.
The second would follow a similar pattern as neither player yielded on their delivery. Both were tested regularly; six times in the first eight games the returner got to 30, yet on each occasion the server doggedly held out.
It was Bertens, however, who was probing more seriously, particularly as the set developed. She fashioned two break points in the sixth game and three more in the eighth, only to be repelled by her opponent every time.
Match points arrived for her as Pera served at 4-5, yet faced with a 15-40 deficit she found the resources to buckle down and thwart Bertens.
At the third attempt – and eighth overall – Bertens finally made the decisive break, sealing what had been an entertaining encounter and setting up a meeting with Garbiñe Muguruza.