Dubai Duty Free Tennis: A rare double awaits Ostapenko, Kudermetova

Latvia's Jelena Ostapenko returns against Romania's Simona Halep during their semifinal on Friday. — AFP
Latvia's Jelena Ostapenko returns against Romania's Simona Halep during their semifinal on Friday. — AFP

Dubai - The Latvian and the Russian made it to the final of both the singles and the doubles



by

James Jose

Published: Fri 18 Feb 2022, 11:40 PM

For the first time in its 22-year history, the WTA Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships will have a double winner after Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko and Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova made it to the final of both the singles and the doubles on Friday night.

Ostapenko, the 2017 French Open champion, thwarted Romanian Simona Halep’s bid for a third title in Dubai by winning their singles semifinal match-up at the WTA Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium. Ostapenko rallied brilliantly from a set down to defeat the 2015 and 2020 champion 2-6, 7-6 (0), 6-0 in an hour and 36 minutes on Centre Court.

Later on, in the last match of the night, Ostapenko and her Ukrainian partner Lyudmyla Kichenok rallied from a set down to beat the Indian-Czech pair of former Dubai winner Sania Mirza, the 2013 champion, and Lucie Hradecka 2-6, 6-2, 10-7 in the doubles semis.

Kudermetova meanwhile, got a walkover in her singles semifinal after her Russian opponent qualifier Czech Republic’s Marketa Vondrousova withdrew due to a right adductor injury.

And then, seeded second in the doubles, Kudermetova and Belgium’s Elise Mertens beat last year’s runners-up Chinese pair Yifan Xu and Zhaoxuan Yang 6-3, 7-5.

Ostapenko began all guns blazing, asking questions, with some quick returns trying to put Halep off her game. And it went on serve but it wasn’t to last long as Halep grew into the game. She managed to get the crucial break in a long drawn fifth game and then broke her again in the seventh. And Halep served out for the set in style, with a crisp ace down the middle, to have it all wrapped up in just 26 minutes.

But that wasn’t to rattle Ostapenko as she came up with a brilliant riposte in the second set. The Latvian put the skates on and raced to a 3-0 lead in the second set after breaking Halep in the second game.

And although Halep clawed back by breaking her back in the fifth game, Ostapenko raced away in the tie-breaker to clinch it 7-0, and push the matter into a deciding third set.

That set the tone for Ostapenko as she dismantled Halep in the third, breaking her in the first, third and fifth games to book her berth in the final.

The pair had met in the French Open final in 2017 with Ostapenko coming through a three-setter against the Romanian for her first and only Grand Slam title.

“Again, playing a Grand Slam champion for the fourth match in a row, it's not easy,” said Ostapenko, who had beaten 2020 Australian Open champion American Sofia Kenin, 2020 French Open champion Iga Swiatek, 2011 and 2014 champion Petra Kvitova, so far in the tournament.

“Just happy with the way I was fighting when things didn't go my way because I felt a little bit exhausted in the beginning, I needed time to just maybe get warmer and I just managed to win the match,” she added.

This was the third match on the trot that Ostapenko went the distance to three sets and she said that she couldn’t get into rhythm initially but managed to do so as the match wore on.

“She was playing completely different tennis from what Petra (Kvitova) was playing. She was playing much slower, almost no pace compared to Petra. So, I really had to step in from the beginning, which I didn't do. I was stepping back. I didn't go into the court. When I understood it and changed things, it started to go my way,” she said.

Ostapenko played Kudermetova during her junior days and the duo had also partnered together in doubles previously. And she felt that if she can bring her ‘A’ game to the fore, she stands a good chance of winning it.

“She's a good, aggressive player. She has a good serve,” Ostapenko said of Kudermetova.

“I think if I play my best tennis, try till the very last point, like all the matches I did, I think I have pretty good chances against her,” she added.

VONDROUSOVA WITHDRAWS

It was heartbreaking for Vondrousova, who had come through the first round after Australian Open runner-up American Danielle Collins had retired due to dizziness and had then gone on to beat Russia’s Varvara Gracheva and Ukraine’s Dayana Yastremska in the second round and the quarterfinal respectively..

Vondrousova revealed that the injury had surfaced a couple of days ago.

“The injury started a few days ago and I’ve played so many matches here which has aggravated the injury,” Vondrousova said in a statement on Friday.

“I’m really sad to leave the tournament this way but I’ve still enjoyed a great week and am proud of how I’ve played. I will travel to Doha and see how the injury is. I’ve played six amazing matches this week having come through qualifying and proud of my performances so, it’s unfortunate this has happened. Health is the priority for me,” added the 22-year-old.

RESULTS:

Singles semifinals:

Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) beat Simona Halep (ROU) 2-6, 7-6 (0), 6-0

Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) beat Marketa Vondrousova (CZE) W/O

Doubles semifinals:

[2] Veronika Kudermetova (RUS)/Elise Mertens (BEL) beat Yifan Xu/Zhaoxuan Yang (CHN) 6-3, 7-5

Lyudmyla Kichenok (UKR)/Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) beat Sania Mirza (IND)/Lucie Hradecka (CZE) 2-6, 6-2, 10-7


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