DOHA, Qatar -- No.5 seed Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands executed a remarkable comeback win in the first round of the Qatar Total Open on Tuesday, maneuvering past Italy’s Camila Giorgi 0-6, 7-6(7), 6-4.
The World No.8 recovered from a nightmarish first set to defeat World No.28 Giorgi in just under two hours, denying the Italian the tenth Top 10 win of her career. After losing to Giorgi in their first meeting in 2015, Bertens has now won two matches on the trot against her Italian foe.
"I think everything today was really tough," Bertens told the media after the match. "Camila started the match today really well, hitting a lot of balls really fast at me, and I didn’t control the balls so good."
Bertens arrived in Doha last week under the weather, and spent much of the past few days recuperating in bed. "To be honest, today I felt better than the last few days, but of course you don't have 100 percent of the energy, but I think I managed to do it pretty well," Bertens admitted. "I'm just happy to be in the second round."
Giorgi was magnificent in the first set and finished the match with 35 winners, to only 15 for Bertens. But the Dutchwoman won the important points in the final two sets, claiming 80 percent of her first-service points in the decisive third set to squeak past the go-for-broke Italian at the very end.
"[Coach Raemon Sluiter] said to me, ‘Just try to put some variety in your shots,’ so some slices here and there, some higher balls, I think that was working," said Bertens. "In the first set, I think [Giorgi] didn’t miss much, and then in the second set, she started to throw in some double faults and started to miss a little bit more."
Bertens sets up a second-round clash with 2016 Doha champion Carla Suarez Navarro, after the Spaniard beat Tunisian wild card Ons Jabeur, 6-3, 6-1, earlier on Tuesday. Bertens has lost her two meetings with Suarez Navarro, but they have not played since 2014.
"We’ve practiced two days ago together, we practice a lot together, so we know what we’ve got," Bertens said of Suarez Navarro. "It’s going to be a fun match, it’s been a while since we played, so I’m looking forward to it."
Huge hitting by the Italian was present from the start, as a barrage of blistering groundstrokes forced a long backhand from Bertens to garner the first break of the opening set at 2-0. The first-set onslaught continued as more winners allowed Giorgi to break again for 4-0, in a game where Bertens led 40-15.
Giorgi was just as steely in her trickier moments during the opener, coming back from 0-40 down to hold for 5-0. In the next game, a backhand winner down the line sealed a love break to close out the opening-set bagel. Giorgi had 10 winners in the set; Bertens, on the other hand could only muster up a single winner alongside 14 unforced errors.
A topsy-turvy second set followed, as Bertens finally got on the board by holding for 1-1, then claimed her first break of the match to lead 2-1 after a game in which Giorgi hit three double faults. Giorgi fired rocket groundstrokes to get back on serve at 3-3, but the Italian dropped serve again in the next game to hand back the break advantage to Bertens.
Bertens held two set points on Giorgi’s serve at 5-3, but Giorgi saved both with a forehand winner and an ace respectively. After those chances were erased, Bertens was unable to serve out the set, hitting numerous unforced errors en route to a quick break and letting Giorgi reclaim parity at 5-5.
The second set went to a tiebreak, where Giorgi hit big serves and forehands to reach 5-1. But after Bertens hit an ace for 5-2, the forehand errors by the Italian piled up, and the Dutchwoman pulled back to 5-5. The breaker went back and forth from there until Bertens converted her fifth set point by forcing an error with a strong return.
Bertens was cruising at the start of the final set, blasting a forehand winner crosscourt to claim a service break and lead 2-0. But Giorgi was far from finished, as she stayed aggressive and forward-thinking to reclaim the break at 3-1, and then held serve to reach 3-3.
After another exchange of breaks, Bertens held serve at love for 5-4, putting pressure on Giorgi to serve to stay in the match. A flurry of errors by Giorgi followed, and Bertens was rewarded with triple match point. Giorgi saved one with a forehand winner, but the Italian pushed a backhand wide on Bertens’ second opportunity to complete the tilt in favor of the No.5 seed.