The scoreline was much different from their last meeting in the semifinals of Lugano, where Mertens also won but in a tight three-setter. Both players struggled to play their best tennis in the sweltering heat, though the first set was really one of missed opportunities for the 19-year-old Belarusian Lapko. She came out firing in the first game and pushed Mertens back, drawing errors from her opponent and earning two break points. But she couldn’t control any of her subsequent returns and eventually lost the game, which Mertens confidently sealed with an ace. Lapko then faced one break point on her own serve and double faulted, giving the Belgian a 2-0 lead. Lapko was able to break right back, but only after she squandered a 0-40 lead.
Mertens later took a 4-2 lead after Lapko sprayed several balls on her service game. Again, Lapko had chances to break back in the very next game but couldn’t capitalize. Serving to stay in the set at 5-2, Lapko double faulted on break point.
“I played more aggressively … And especially with the heat, I wanted to make the match a little shorter.”
Lapko took a break between sets and seemed to be completely affected by the temperature in the second, while Mertens upped the aggression. Lapko won just five more points, none of which occurred on her first serve. She also had zero winners.
WHAT IT MEANS: After a tough three-setter against Kurumi Nara on Monday, Mertens was relieved to get an easier victory in these oppressive temperatures.
“I’m happier than my first round,” said Mertens of her game. “I played more aggressively. I felt like I had to because she’s a good player…And especially with the heat, I wanted to make the match a little shorter.”
The Belgian, who made the semifinals at the Australian Open in January, has had a good run on the hardcourts this summer, making the quarterfinals of Montréal and Cincinnati, where she beat defending US Open champion, Sloane Stephens. Mertens is in Stephens’ section of the draw as a potential fourth-round matchup.
MATCH POINT: Mertens’ experience made the difference in the key moments of the match. Lapko lost seven of her eight break points.