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By Richard Pagliaro | Sunday, February 16, 2020

Kiki Bertens

Kiki Bertens made history as the first woman to successfully defend St. Petersburg with a powerful 6-1, 6-3 dismissal of Elena Rybakina in the final.

Photo credit: Formula TX Facebook/St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy

Unbroken all day, Kiki Bertens finally broke down in an eruption of emotion.

Bertens broke down in tears of joy making history as the first woman to successfully defend St. Petersburg with a powerful 6-1, 6-3 dismissal of Elena Rybakina today.

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The second-seeded Bertens saved all five break points she faced charging through a 74-minute triumph to capture her 10th career championship in style.

“I feel incredible, happy it was an amazing week,” said Bertens after wiping away tears of joy. “It was a really tough week from the beginning since we had a tough last weekend in Fed Cup.

"I don’t know how I managed to win all my matches this week. But yeah I’m so happy right now."

It was Bertens' eighth straight St. Petersburg win as she defended a WTA title for the second time in her career.

The lone Dutchwoman in the draw improved to 5-1 vs. Top 30 opponents this season. Bertens beat four Russian-speaking women in a row—three Russians and Moscow-born Rybakina, who represents Kazakhstan—to collect her 10th career title in style.

After Rybakina held to open, Bertens raced through seven straight games to seize command.

"[The key was] was just keep on fighting," Bertens said. "I guess keep on fighting against the crowd, but today they were with me I think so I'm really happy with the support thanks to you guys." 

The run to the final propels the 25th-ranked Rybakina to her Top 20 debut when the new WTA rankings are released tomorrow. Rybakina’s aims are much higher.

“The coach told me about it,” Rybakina said. “But the goal is to become number one in the world, so for me it doesn’t matter whether I am 20th, 21st, 22nd. I try not to think about it.”

Contesting the biggest final of her career, a tight Rybakina dropped her head on a second serve sending it into net gifting the first break and a 2-1 lead to the defending champion.

Bertens blasted two stinging serves—an ace and a serve winner—down the T backing up the break for 3-1.

Movement proved to be a big Bertens edge at the outset.

Bouncing around the court eagerly on her toes, the second-seeded Dutchwoman dragged Rybakina into the corners forcing her to counter from awkward spots. Rybakina slapped a forehand into net to face a third break point.

Stretching the court with crosscourt drives, Bertens hit behind the 6’ baseliner rapping a forehand down the line to break again for 4-1.

Reading Rybakina’s shots, Bertens continued to make her taller opponent bend low to dig out ankle-high shots. A flat forehand strike gave the world No. 8 triple set point in the seventh game.

Dancing around her backhand, Bertens probed the Rybakina backhand repeatedly drawing a stretched reply to seal the 28-minute opening set on a six-game spree.

Bertens hit 11 winners against only two unforced errors moving to within one set of her second straight St. Petersburg crown.

The 20-year-old Rybakina left the court for a four-minute bathroom break then put Bertens in a triple break point hole to start the second set.

Withstanding the pressure during a nine-minute game, the defending champion cranked a couple of aces staving off four break points in all. Bertens battled through her seventh straight game to start the second set.

The WTA ace leader slid her third ace down the T finally snapping her slide to win her first game since the opener.

Dictating direction of rallies with her forehand, Bertens made her move in the fourth game. Rybakina committed her second double fault and followed with an error as Bertens broke for 3-1.

Every time Rybakina posed a question, Bertens had an answer. Erasing the fifth break point she faced in the set with a sweeping forehand, Bertens navigated a tight hold for 4-1.

Bertens closed her second straight St. Petersburg title with a forehand drop shot and tears of joy.


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