St. Petersburg, RUSSIA – Vera Zvonareva claimed her first victory against a Top 30 player since 2015 as Kiki Bertens retired after the first set of the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy.
Zvonareva won four games in success to storm back from 2-4 down to claim the opener 6-4, and Bertens, who was visibly struggling through illness, felt she could go on no longer thereafter.
“It’s not how I wanted to win,” the WTA World No.197 admitted. “I want to wish her a speedy recovery.”
Neither player looked especially comfortable on court in the early stages, which were littered by unforced errors. Zvonareva made a particularly slow start, double faulting twice in the opening game to hand the initiative to the WTA World No.28.
Bertens, though, was also out of sorts. Her opening service game was also a lengthy affair characterised by unusual errors, such as the volley she sent well wide when she had much of the court to hit.
Zvonareva, rusty having played only a handful of matches at any level since September, was unable to capitalise initially. Indeed, she might have fallen further behind in a mammoth seventh game, which stretched more than 10 minutes and saw the Russian fend off a couple of double break points.
It was a watershed moment, as her level improved thereafter.
“It was a tough start for me,” she said. “I’ve been missing from the centre court for two years and that’s why I was making so many unforced errors to begin with. I raised my game – I knew I could. At 4-4 I won a very important game and then I succeeded in taking the set.”
The 33-year-old did indeed improve her consistency, showing the kind of touch that took her to WTA World No.2 in 2010 when she played a deft drop shot to manufacture her sixth break point of the match. Having missed the five previous, this time she was able to execute when it mattered.
Her momentum was unstoppable by that stage, and when Bertens hit wide the set was Zvonareva’s.
The Belgian consulted with medical staff at the sit down and appeared to be shaking and coughing when she took the decision to offer her hand to her opponent.
Zvonareva has set up a second round meeting with Jelena Ostapenko – a match up that she refuses to be intimidated by.
“I never look at the draw, I just try to step on the court and try to show my best game,” she said.
It will be a first meeting with the WTA World No.6, who is 13 years her junior.