NÜRNBERG, Germany - No.1 seed Kiki Bertens made a superb start to her title defense at the Nürnberger Versicherungs Cup on Tuesday, sweeping past the 19-year-old local wildcard Katharina Gerlach 6-2, 6-1 in one hour and 21 minutes.
“I think today was a good match from my side,” Bertens told wtatennis.com after the match. “[She’s a] young girl still, I think she can improve a lot in the next few years and hopefully we can hear a lot more from her.
“I feel great to be back here in Nürnberg after winning the titles last year in both singles and doubles. I’m really happy to be back.”
The World No.541 was competing in just her second WTA Tour main draw (having lost in the first round as a wildcard here last year to Irina Falconi), and Bertens was the first Top 20 player she had ever faced.
Despite the flair she showed with her one-handed backhand and penchant for net forays, Gerlach found herself almost permanently on the back foot. The Dutch top seed combined relentless baseline power with a sprinkling of dropshots, and when the teenager ventured forward she fell victim to Bertens’ precise passes all too often.
A medical time-out at the end of the first set revived Gerlach slightly, and she broke the No.1 seed for the first and only time trailing 2-6, 0-1 after managing to dominate a pair of rallies with her forehand. But Bertens, who had been playing well within herself, had another gear to go to, and after coming through a titanic multi-deuce game to break the wildcard again, eased towards the finish line.
Last year, Nürnberg was the beginning of the Dutch No.1’s remarkable surge up the rankings and into the Top 20 - and she’ll be hoping a successful defense of her title can kickstart another rise. Bertens will play another local favourite in round two: either Annika Beck or 18-year-old qualifier Lena Rueffer.
Elsewhere, No.7 seed Yaroslava Shvedova had to come from a set down against the World No.265 qualifier, Anna Zaja, to score just her third win of the year 3-6, 7-5, 6-1; while Carina Witthoeft blitzed Johanna Larsson 6-1, 6-0 to set up a second-round meeting with compatriot Julia Goerges.