Bertens sets up St Petersburg final with Vekic

Netherlands’ Kiki Bertens celebrates winning her semi-final match against Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka. (Reuters pic)

SAINT PETERSBURG: Dutch second seed Kiki Bertens beat Belorussian fourth seed Aryna Sabalenka in straight sets on Saturday to set up a final with Donna Vekic of Croatia in the Saint Petersburg WTA indoor event.

The 27-year-old world number eight, who is seeking her eighth career title, won 7-6 (7/5), 6-2 in one hour 38 minutes to record her third win over Sabalenka in as many meetings.

“It was a really tough match,” Bertens said. “Aryna is a great player. She hits the ball really hard, So I had to stay aggressive where I could and just try to return the balls back where I couldn’t. Luckily it was enough to win today.”

Both players looked nervous at the start producing a catalogue of unforced errors.

But Bertens was slightly more accurate, winning the opening set in a tiebreak after 56 minutes on court.

In the second, Bertens tightened her grip on the play breaking twice for a commanding 4-0 lead.

Sabalenka, 10th in the WTA rankings, broke back to reduce the arrears but it was her last success in the match as Bertens broke again in the final game which lasted more than nine minutes sealing her spot in the final on the fourth match point.

Later on Saturday Vekic, who was seeded eighth here, outclassed Russian veteran wild card Vera Zvonareva, now ranked 97th, 6-2, 6-2 to level their head-to-head record at one all.

Vekic, 30th in the WTA rankings, was in complete command from the start breaking her rival’s serve twice for a one-set lead in 38 minutes.

The 34-year-old Zvonareva had beaten three higher-ranked opponents this week but looked tired and failed to match the tempo maintained by the Croatian.

The second set was almost a carbon copy of the first as Vekic produced two more early breaks to claim her place before sealing her victory with a backhand volley after one hour 10 minutes on court.

“I’m really happy to be here in the final,” Vekic said. “It was much more difficult to win than the scoreline indicates. She’s a really tough player, she gets a lot of balls back and I had to work really hard for every single point today.”