It's nice to play on a surface that you love, so Alison Riske felt she had nothing to lose when the grass season arrived on tour. "It's my favourite surface. It fits my play and I feel comfortable with my flat hits, attacking play and good returns," Riske explained.
Just finished from winning an ITF title in Surbiton, the 28-year-old came to the Netherlands in an upbeat mood. She was glad to be rid of the first half of the season where she'd lose in the Shenzhen final and bowed in the opening round of the Australian Open.
Things weren't successful until she captured the ITF title and little did she know then that things were about to get much better. The rounds at the Libema Open in Den Bosch were proving to be a challenge to the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania native.
She knew what it took and dug deep, stayed focused and came out victorious with some rounds not even dropping a set. The final was with Kiki Bertens who she had lost to in the last three meetings. Riske wouldn't make this an omen and fought hard after their warm up to be aggressive first time out.
Somehow Bertens was able to dismantle Riske's game plan tremendously. If it wasn't the overhead lob, it was an inside out shot to the corner of the court. The unforced errors also crept in resulting in Bertens giving Riske a bageled score in the first set.
"She has always been a difficult opponent for me. It will be a difficult battle...she fights for every point...she is very good in switching her backhand with slice and drop shots..." she told the Libema Open website media.
It was really after receiving the bagel that Riske became more determined to capitalize on her opportunities and start making winning shots. The American tried everything, even coming up to net, but Bertens simply passed her into the open court leading 5-4.
The match looked like it would be in Bertens' hands but Riske had other ideas and played cleverly, fighting and pushing her way into the set with a tiebreak of which she won. She'd clench her fist and walk off the court to towel off in the break and from there things took an even more dramatic turn.
The decider had a different atmosphere despite Bertens lead of 3-1. After a series of good defensive rallies punctuated by Riske's constant grunts, Bertens returned the ball in the doubles alley giving a hard earned point to Riske.
The Dutchwoman started losing her sting in the match and it wasn't for long that Riske was leading 6-5. This was indeed the point where Riske had to settle down and focus knowing well that she could have this match and title.
The last shot from Bertens was hard and fast but she'd hit it wide giving the match of 0-6, 7-6, 7-5 to the American. Riske had saved 5 championship points to win her first tournament in 5 years since her defeat of Belinda Bencic at the 2014 Tianjin Open another grass court event.
Alison Riske was overwhelmed with happiness and found her coach in the stands giving him an emotional hug. There was a brief on-court interview where Riske said smilingly "I'm just so grateful for an awesome week and I look forward to being back again next year."