BEIJING, China -- In a tussle between two Top 10 players hoping to qualify for the Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen, No.8 seed Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands clinched a spot in the China Open semifinals on Friday, moving past No.3 seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, 7-6(6), 6-2.
"I think this week I played some better tennis again," Bertens said, during her post-match press conference. "When you start to play better, get the wins, be in the semifinals, of course also you still need points for Shenzhen, I think then with some pressure and playing better all the time, it's good for me. It says for myself that I was growing a lot over the last few years."
Bertens leveled her head-to-head against Svitolina at two wins apiece after upsetting the World No.3 in an hour and 48 minutes of play. Bertens, seeking her third singles title of the year, now improves to 4-2 against Top 5 players during 2019.
The Dutchwoman fired 36 winners in the match to Svitolina's 16; the Ukrainian was also undone by nearly doubling her winner count with 31 unforced errors. Overall, Bertens's power game claimed her over three-quarters of her first-service points, and she also won more than half of Svitolina's second-service points, allowing her to convert three of her seven break points.
"I was stepping in where I could, coming to the net, which I didn't do a lot over the last few weeks," said Bertens. "I think I stepped up my game today."
Bertens will meet World No.1 Ashleigh Barty of Australia in the final four, after Barty pulled off a three-set comeback victory over No.7 seed Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic earlier on Friday. Barty is 4-0 against Bertens, including two victories earlier this season.
"It's tough to play [Barty] because she's playing so different than all the other girls," said Bertens. "Most of the time they're playing really aggressive. Ash is also playing aggressive, but in her own way. A lot of slices, then some more heavy on the forehand, good serve. I think we play a little bit similar. Of course, she's coming to the net also a lot. It makes it tough.
"But I just have to be patient, just try to play aggressive where I can, try to hang in the points where I have to."
After saving break points in her first two service games, Bertens took the initial lead in the tilt, breaking for 3-1 after a divine dropshot set up a beautiful backhand winner down the line. The Dutchwoman consolidated the break to create a commanding 4-1 advantage.
Bertens even had break points for 5-1 following a winning lob, but Svitolina extricated herself from that dire situation to gut out the hold for 4-2. Svitolina was rewarded for her grit when she reached break point in the following game after a miscue long by Bertens, and the Ukrainian pulled back on serve after Bertens netted a groundstroke to give up the break.
Svitolina then had her own opportunity to take control of the opening frame after Bertens missed a backhand volley to give the No.3 seed a break point at 5-5. However, Bertens redeemed that miss by punching a forehand volley to get to deuce, and the Dutchwoman eventually held on for 6-5, as the players moved inexorably into a pivotal tiebreak.
Bertens was the more solid player off the ground as she built a 4-0 lead in the breaker, but Svitolina came up with clutch serving to rebound to 4-3. At 5-5, a Bertens backhand forced a Svitolina error, giving the Dutch player set point, but she missed a backhand at the end of a rally in the next point to level the tiebreak at 6-6. Bertens, though, got a second set point with a winning volley, and that one was clinched after a long backhand by Svitolina.
Bertens then cracked open the second set at 1-1, wresting away a game point from Svitolina by ending a strong all-court rally with a backhand passing winner, then breaking the Ukrainian two points later with another winning pass. The Dutchwoman followed that up by cruising through a love service game to hold a firm advantage at 3-1.
The No.8 seed used powerful service returns to grasp a second break for good measure, as she extended her lead to 4-1. Svitolina stopped a five-game winning streak by Bertens with a hold for 5-2, but the Dutchwoman was undeterred as she converted her second match point in the very next game with a stunning forehand winner down the line.