Bertens and Vekic set for final showdown in St. Petersburg


Second seed Kiki Bertens beat hard-hitting Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus 7-6(5) 6-2 on Saturday to reach the final of the St Petersburg Ladies Trophy.

Bertens will face eighth seed Donna Vekic of Croatia, who beat Russia’s Vera Zvonareva 6-2 6-2 in the other semi-final.

Bertens sent down nine aces and 29 winners to Sabalenka’s 18 while also making 13 fewer unforced errors than her opponent as she wrapped up the victory in one hour, 38 minutes.

The Dutchwoman made a strong start, breaking Sabalenka’s serve in the first game, but her opponent broke back to level the opener at 2-2.

There were no further breaks of serve and the set headed to a tiebreak in which Sabalenka gained the early advantage only to double fault and hand the initiative back to Bertens, who claimed a 1-0 lead after converting her third set point.

The 27-year-old kept up the pressure in the second set, racing into a 4-0 lead before Sabalenka got on the board and extending her lead to 5-2 before converting her fourth match point to reach her first final of the year.

Vekic, 22, stunned twice Wimbledon champion and this year’s Australian Open runner-up Petra Kvitova in the previous round and turned in a dominant performance as she beat Zvonareva in one hour, 10 minutes.

She broke early in each set and sent down 21 winners, winning 86 percent of her first-serve points as Zvonareva wilted in the face of her relentless onslaught.