PALERMO, Italy -- Top seed Kiki Bertens moved into the second round of the Palermo Ladies Open on Tuesday, as the Dutchwoman claimed a 6-0, 6-1 victory over Ekaterine Gorgodze of Georgia in her opening-round encounter.
"I’m really happy to have the opportunity to play here in Palermo, and to be in the second round," Bertens told the press after the match. Bertens played in Palermo once before, losing in the opening round in 2012. This is the first staging of the event since 2013.
World No.5 Bertens improved her 2019 clay-court record to 14-4, which includes a title at the Mutua Madrid Open, where she beat Simona Halep in the final. Bertens needed 72 minutes to ease into the second round, winning 57 percent of points returning Gorgodze's serve, and saving both break points she faced in the clash.
"It’s always tough to play first round again on clay, especially after coming back from grass and having a little break after Wimbledon," said Bertens. "But I think physically I felt good today, and I think my game was there, and hopefully I can play a little bit better in the second round."
Left-handed Gorgodze, ranked World No.193, was playing against a Top 20 player for the first time in her career, as she sought her first main-draw victory at WTA-level. Gorgodze fended off 10 of the 16 break points she faced, but it was not enough to quell Bertens on the day.
Bertens went up a double-break to start the match, but she took a protracted path to get there, as Gorgodze saved four break points in each of her first two service games before the Dutchwoman claimed the service breaks on her fifth chance both times.
Gorgodze won at least two points in each of big-hitting Bertens’s service games in the opening frame, deploying deft dropshots and strong volleys when able. But the World No.5 steeled herself in the clutch each time, earning her holds without facing a break point. At 5-0, Bertens double faulted away her first set point, but she converted her second chance after a netted groundstroke by the Georgian.
Gorgodze got on the scoreboard in the first game of the second set, but Bertens still jumped out to an early lead in that stanza by breaking the Georgian for a 2-1 lead. Errors by the Dutchwoman in the following game gave Gorgodze her first two break points of the match, but strong deliveries by one of the WTA’s top servers bailed Bertens out of trouble, and she held on for 3-1.
Bertens took control from there, using a deep return to force a Gorgodze error on break point and go up 4-1, then consolidating with a couple of aces to reach 5-1. Serving to stay in the match, Gorgodze let a 40-15 lead slip away, and Bertens broke serve on her first match point after a netted overhead by the Georgian.
Bertens will now take on Aleksandra Krunic of Serbia in the second round, after Krunic eliminated Italian qualifier Jessica Pieri, 6-2, 6-3, on Monday. Bertens has won both of her previous matches against Krunic in straight sets, which both came on clay, at Gstaad in 2017 and Charleston in 2018.
"Krunic, I know her really well, so it’s going to be a fun game, I think it’s going to be a good match," Bertens stated. "I’m just seeing it match by match, and every match is tough, so I’m just looking forward and preparing as good as I can for the second round."