Alison Riske and home favorite Kiki Bertens battled through a roller-coaster final at the 2019 Libema Open in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands.
After a solid start to 2019, one that saw her reach the final in her first tournament, Alison Riske didn’t advance to another quarterfinal for five months. Falling in the first round at Roland Garros, the American next took to the grass courts and successfully defended her ITF title in Surbiton.
Moving on from there to the WTA tour stop in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands, Riske advanced to her second final of the season and extended her winning streak to nine matches in a row. In the championship match, she’d face the top seed Kiki Bertens, who hadn’t lost a set all week and would be playing in the first grass-court final of her career.
By the time of this tournament, Bertens had already clinched her third consecutive year of winning multiple titles, further establishing herself as a consistent member of the top 10. Already one of the most successful Dutchwomen of the Open Era, Bertens got off to a quick start in her attempt to win this tournament before the home crowd as she took the first set 6-0.
In the second, Bertens kept up the pressure, gaining an early break to go up 3-1. With a change of tactics desperately in order, Riske began attacking the net more and managed to gain the break back, leveling the match at 4-4. When the unseeded American served down 4-5, Bertens earned three match points but was denied each time. More match points for the top seed came and went when Riske served at 5-6 before the set went into a tiebreak. This time, Riske was able to get a quick lead, one she didn’t give up, as she took the mini-frame 7-3 to send the match into a decider.
Bertens broke serve early in the third set, but Riske leveled matters at 3-3 before a 30-minute rain delay came. When they returned to the court, the two stayed on serve to 5-6, but as she tried to force another tiebreak, Bertens got in trouble and went down 15-40, giving Riske multiple match points. After a forehand error by Bertens, the American had completed the comeback to win her first title in five years and the second of her career.
Riske became the second American to ever win the title, following CoCo Vandeweghe, who captured the top prize in 2014 and 2016.
Of her eight career finals at this point, this was the sixth championship match Riske reached as an unseeded player.
The last time a Dutch champion was crowned was in 2006, when Michaella Krajicek became the first woman from the Netherlands to win.