Match Review: Elise Mertens v Mona Barthel

The schedule was packed on Day 6 of the Ladies Open Lugano and my feature match from the day was = the first to be played on Centre Court as second seed Elise Mertens from Belgium faced the German Mona Barthel in the quarterfinals. It was a tight one throughout and it was full of momentum swings but eventually, Mertens returned from a break down in the decider to score the 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(7-0) win to book her spot over Barthel in the semifinals. This was not a perfect match from Mertens as she started slowly but then played a great end to the first set where she refused to miss. Her final two sets were patchy with more errors than usual but she remained consistent enough. Barthel was not consistent enough as although she had points of great aggressive play, her return deserted her too often and Barthel eventually broke through her serve.

Set 1

It was Mona Barthel who had the better start to this match as she burst out of the gates with fast and attacking play while Elise Mertens struggled in her first service game with landing her first serve with Barthel crushing her second serve to get the early break. Mertens got on the board for 1-3 with a better game that saw her get stuck into some longer rallies but then Barthel gifted her the break back with a terrible service game that saw her hit two double faults and really overpress on the forehand. After losing that break of serve, things really went downhill for Barthel as she had lost all rhythm and shot selection while Mertens’ confidence was rising and she was starting to go for a bit more with power. It looked like Barthel might take a virtual bagel when she was serving to stay in the set at 5-3 but she somehow managed to compose herself and play some measured tennis to save a set point and overcome a lack of first serves to hold.  In the end, it was too late as Barthel went back to the abundance of errors and Mertens served out the 6-4 set.

Set 2

Elise Mertens started the second set very confident and Mona Barthel was under pressure from the start as Mertens was extending the rallies and wasn’t afraid to slide her forehand down the line for a winner. That saw Barthel be forced to save a break point in the opening game and then after Mertens secured a great hold for 1-1, Barthel could not save another break point as her frustration grew over how much Mertens was returning. That frustration turned into determination for Barthel as she came out and played hard-hitting and great return game to break back immediately and then got a convincing hold for the 2-3 lead. Barthel’s game dropped after that as she made some loose return errors and then Mertens came closing to breaking at 3-3 but Barthel played the big shots when she needed to and she managed to hold. After missing more opportunities to go for returns, Barthel was lucky to escape her service game at 4-4 as Mertens lead 0-40 with three break points but Barthel was just so clutch and she did not hold back to get a flurry of winners to save break points and hold. It was a gutsy hold from Mertens next as she ripped some backhands but after Barthel rose in confidence, she couldn’t be stopped by Mertens and she broke on her sixth set point for 7-5.

Set 3

It looked like we could see a very strong set from Mona Barthel early on as she got a convincing hold to start but then showed her inconsistency by spraying loose errors from the baseline in her first return game of the set. Barthel managed to clean that up quickly as she was looking very strong behind the serve with the use of a one-two punch and she eventually got her opportunity when Elise Mertens put in a poor service game with a double fault and attackable shots, which Barthel managed to break on for the 1-3 lead. It looked like Barthel could race to victory after she confidently backed up the break but then she showed her inconsistency when returning to give Mertens the easy hold. The Belgian eventually got back into the match with a game that saw her hit some smooth backhands and then Barthel hit a double fault on break point. Mertens was very keen to protect her serve from there as she brought up the number of first serves and that elicited more return errors from Barthel. The problem for Mertens was that her German opponent was still very strong on serve and used that dominance in those rallies to support her groundstrokes. Neither women were able to make inroads on their opponents serve and eventually a tiebreaker was forced and that breaker was terrible from Barthel as every single point ended on an error from her and Mertens got the 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(7-0) with a disappointing end.

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