INDIAN WELLS, CA, USA - No.7 seed Kiki Bertens is ready to shine at the BNP Paribas Open - but if she had a say, she’d probably rather play anywhere but on Center Court.
Bertens comes into Indian Wells searching for consistency after two months of up and down results. Her Australian Swing was a mixed bag: a semifinal in Sydney preceded a second-round exit at the Australian Open. She lifted her first title of the season soon after at the St Petersburg Ladies Trophy and then backed it up with a quarterfinal in Doha, before falling in the first round of Dubai.
“It’s just a little bit going up and down this year so far - I had my down again last week, so hopefully this week it’s the up again,” she joked with press at the WTA All-Access Hour.
Back in the California desert, Bertens is eager to make some new memories to replace last year’s disappointing second-round defeat. The Dutch player gave Serena Williams, newly returned from maternity leave, a big challenge but the former World No.1 eventually prevailed in a tough two sets victory, 7-6(5), 7-5.
“I think in the beginning last year was not great, like my trip here in the States, Indian Wells and then Miami as well,” Bertens recalled at All-Access Hour. “Here I lost to Serena in the second round, and then in Miami against Venus [Williams] with match points.
“It was tough, but afterwards I won Charleston so it all went great afterwards. But yeah, not really great memories from last year, so I can only improve I think. I’m looking forward to playing my first match.”
Now a Top 10 fixture, Bertens admitted during her press conference that she still struggles to deal with the increased attention that comes from getting the big results. A self-described introvert, Bertens still sometimes cringes at the thought of playing on big stadium courts - something that she did a lot of last year during her rapid rise into the game’s upper echelons.
“All new things for me are, like, really scary,” she laughed. “So yeah. First time on a big court? It was not good. First time on Wimbledon Centre Court I lost in like, what was it, 38 minutes or something? Yeah, not great memories about first things. But that’s me.”
Already a known powerhouse on clay, last year Bertens notched a head-turning spate of huge wins across all surfaces to cement her place as a Top 10 contender: she lifted trophies at Charleston, Cincinnati and Seoul, and reached the Madrid Open final - her biggest career final - as well as a Grand Slam quarterfinal at Wimbledon. Along the way she scored 10 wins over Top 10 players - including World No.1 Simona Halep and No.2 Caroline Wozniacki.
With every match she built up more and more confidence, Bertens explained, until she’s finally at a place where the attention feels routine instead of uncomfortable.
“I think now I’m fine with it. Now when I see the schedule and I see that I’m scheduled on Center Court I’m not thinking, “Oh I don’t want to play there” or anything. That’s not the case anymore, it was before,” Bertens admitted.
“But now it’s just like, because you’re getting used to it, it’s not like I want to play there, but it is what it is and I can deal with the circumstances. I’ve been there. I’ve lost really big on big courts, I’ve won on big courts.
“So now I know that I can do it, I can play in front of a big crowd and it doesn’t really matter anymore to me.”
No.7 seed Bertens starts her Indian Wells campaign on Friday against Magda Linette, contesting the last day match on Stadium 4. A smaller court: just how Bertens likes it.