Kiki Bertens has beaten Donna Vekic twice in 2019 – can she do it for a third time as the two face off in round-robin play at the WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai?
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Denied a place in Shenzhen, world no. 10 Kiki Bertens looks to get off to a winning start at the WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai as she takes on Donna Vekic on Tuesday.
Bertens was very much in qualifying position for the season-ending championships in Shenzhen, hoping to make one of the elite eight for the second straight year, but was edged out at the last minute by Belinda Bencic when Bertens fell to an inspired Kristina Mladenovic in the Moscow quarterfinals last week, leaving her without recourse should Bencic succeed in reaching the final. The Swiss player did, and won the title to boot, leapfrogging both Bertens and Serena Williams to secure the last spot at the WTA Finals.
To do her credit, Bertens has not slunk away to lick her wounds (and get an early start to the off-season), but has come straight to Zhuhai to lead the field at the second-tier season-ending championships.
‘It’s really nice to be here with all the girls and try to finish the season strong, everyone. It’s just another opportunity for everyone. It’s just the last week and everyone just wants to try and finish as good,’ the world no. 10 said on Monday.
‘You for sure have two matches, which makes it fun I think also. Let’s see what everyone still can bring and hopefully we can play some good matches.’
Bertens is playing Zhuhai for the second time, but actually looking for her first win there after going 0-2 in 2016 with defeats to Elena Vesnina and Elina Svitolina – and she hasn’t been drawn into an easy group, with Dayana Yastremska and Donna Vekic the two players she’ll have to face in the round-robin stages as the three make up the Azalea Group.
The Dutch player’s quest to qualify for the WTA Finals, however, does seem to have revitalized a season that got a bit off track. Bertens made four finals in the first seven months of 2019, including winning one of the biggest titles of the season at the Mutua Madrid Open and her third career hard-court title in St Petersburg, but she failed to get beyond the third round at any of the Grand Slams and her American hard-court swing, especially her failure to defend her Cincinnati title, was a disappointment. Bertens hasn’t always got the results she’s wanted to in recent weeks – witness defeats to Mladenovic in Moscow and Coco Gauff in Linz in particular – but where she has lost it’s been to good players, and she played really well to make the semifinals in Beijing.
So it feels as if Bertens has everything she needs to do well in Zhuhai – except perhaps a good draw. Yastremska’s most recent results haven’t been great and she lost their only meeting so far in Beijing a few weeks ago, but Vekic is a different matter.
Vekic is making her Zhuhai debut after reaching a career-high ranking of world no. 21, where she currently sits, in September. It’s been a very good season for the former teenage phenom, who has put a great deal of tenacious work into improving over the past couple of years with coach Torben Beltz and has seen it pay off. Although the Croatian is the only one of the 12 women in Zhuhai not to have won a title in 2019, she did make finals in St Petersburg and Nottingham, finishing runner-up to Bertens and Caroline Garcia respectively, and was a semifinalist in Brisbane, Acapulco and San Jose, and the highlight of Vekic’s season was undoubtedly making her first Grand Slam quarterfinal at the US Open.
Since the US Open, however, Vekic is 2-5, with defeats to Misaki Doi in Osaka, Ons Jabeur in Wuhan, Bertens herself in Beijing, Mladenovic in Linz and Karolina Muchova in Moscow last week, and she is looking to avoid a third straight defeat on Tuesday, suggesting that the Croatian might be very much running out of steam at the end of the year.
Vekic has always been a tough opponent for Bertens and actually won three of their first four matches, and it’s only the two wins Bertens has scored over Vekic in 2019 that have levelled the head-to-head to 3-3. Bertens beat Vekic in the St Petersburg final and again in Beijing, but that latter match was only decided in a third-set tie-break. Both women have big serves and impressive forehands, and while Bertens has a lot more variety than Vekic off the ground, better defense and more ways to win points, Bertens can also struggle to feel or figure out the right way to play. It’s likely to be a tough, unforced-error-filled slugfest on Tuesday with effective serving playing a crucial role, and recent form suggests it will be Bertens who comes out on top to get her first win in Zhuhai.
Bertens vs Vekic WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai tennis is live from Zhuhai on Tuesday at 3.30pm local/8.30am BST
Bertens vs Vekic tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Top seed Bertens out to improve to 3-0 vs Vekic in 2019 in Zhuhai
Kiki Bertens has beaten Donna Vekic twice in 2019 – can she do it for a third time as the…
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