Top seed Barbora Krejcikova cruised into semi-finals of the Rothesay Classic in Birmingham, looking a shoe-in for the title on Sunday, while Jelena © had a far bumpier ride with a 3-set win over qualifier Magdalen Frech, and Anastasia Potapova stopped Harriet Dart’s impressive run, but only after also going the distance.
It's a unique surface [grass]. I've really enjoyed these couple of weeks, and will just to try and use this momentum for the rest of the season. Today I played someone who's 21 in the world and lost 6-4 in the third, and, I think, there's a lot of areas I can improve on, so it's heading in the right direction. Harriet Dart
Krejcikova eased past her fellow Czech compatriot, 18-year old Linda Fruhvirtova, 6-3 6-2, with the 2021 French Open champion never facing a single break point at the Edgbaston Priory Club on Friday.
Ostapenko, who was the 2017 French Open champion, had to rally from a set and 4-0 down to get past Frech from Poland, 4-6 7-5 6-2, in an error-strewn and scrappy encounter, in which the Latvian suffered a left calf issue.
“I was thinking at some point, maybe I should not continue, but there is a fighter inside of me, so I want to play until I cannot walk or something,” the Latvian said. “After winning the second set I felt like I was playing better and my footwork was there.”
In the semi-final, Ostapenko will face 4th-seeded Russian Potapova, who thwarted the hopes of the last Briton standing, Harriet Dart, 4-6 6-3 6-4.
Unseeded Zhu Lin, of China, beat Canadian Rebecca Marino, 4-6 6-3 6-2, in the first match of the day, and she will face Krejcikova in the Last 4.
Dart, the British No 4, led by a set and a break but could not outgun Potapova, the World No 21.
“I thought it was a really high level match, and I definitely had a lot of chances – overall it was a positive week,” said Dart. “Of course I wanted to do better today and to keep going, but it’s important just to keep building week in, week out, to be able to compete with the best players in the world.”
Dart had looked comfortable on her serve and moved 2-1 up in the second set, but she was unable to convert 3 game points.
She lost her serve early in the decider, but fought back to level at 3-3, only to be broken immediately again as Potapova pushed on to win in 3 sets for the 3rd time this week.
Dart was bidding to reach a first WTA semi-final, having lost 3 previous quarter-finals, all on British grass.
“It’s a unique surface,” added Dart. “I’ve really enjoyed these couple of weeks, and will just to try and use this momentum for the rest of the season.
“Today I played someone who’s 21 in the world and lost 6-4 in the third, and, I think, there’s a lot of areas I can improve on, so it’s heading in the right direction.”
Earlier on Friday, Dart and Nottingham Open champion Katie Boulter both received wild-cards for next week’s WTA 500 tournament in Eastbourne.
Potapova’s next opponent is Ostapenko, who needed to pull off a stirring come-back before overcoming Frech, the Polish qualifier, going down 4-6, 0-4 before battling back to prevail after 2 hours and 19 minutes.
A game earlier, at 0-3, Ostapenko took a medical time-out to have her left leg taped, and Frech seemingly continued to carve her way to a victory, holding for 4-0, but the Latvian’s winners came more frequently after that, and she powerfully erased 2 break points in the next game to avoid a 5-0 deficit.
Up 4-1, Frech saw her 40-0 lead on serve disappear, as Ostapenko amped up her velocity and accuracy to break, and her winners only increased from there.
Taking a 5-4 lead, Ostapenko had reeled off 5 games in a row, but Frech stopped that run and held for 5-5.
Two games later, the Latvian cracked another forehand winner to break for the second set, and strong service returns gave her the first break of the decider and a 4-2 lead, from which she cruised home, winning 11 of her 12 first-service points in the final set in the process.
Elsewhere, Krejcikova sailed past Fruhvirtova in 73 minutes to set up a semi-final with China’s Zhu, who had to come from a set down to defeat lucky loser Marino in her Last 8 match.
Krejcikova, the World No12 improved to 2-0 in her head-to-head against the teenage Fruhvirtova.
“I definitely feel great, it’s nice to have three matches in your pocket,” Krejcikova said afterwards. “It’s always difficult to play a fellow Czech player, so I’m really happy with the way I handled the match, and I’m looking forward to be in the semis.
“Every single match you have to be aggressive on the grass. To play aggressive, to go for the shots, to serve well and return well and start dictating from the very first point, I think that’s the key, and I think that I was doing that pretty well today.”
Krejcikova is seeking her second title of the year, following her upset of World No 1 Iga Swiatek to win WTA 1000 Dubai in February.
Earlier on Friday, Zhu, the World No 39, needed 2 hours and 6 minutes to oust 90th-ranked Marino, taking a 3-1 lead in their head-to-head this year, and 4-2 overall.
During the first quarter of 2023, Zhu reached her first Grand Slam Round of 16 at the Australian Open, won her first WTA singles title at Hua Hin, and made the Monterrey semi-finals, but, since then, the Chinese had won only 1 of her next 6 matches.
She has got herself back on track, though, with 3 wins so far in Birmingham, fending off 10 aces from the big-serving Canadian on Friday, while converting 5 of her 12 break points.
Zhu and Krejcikova have yet to meet on Tour, but a win for Chinese against the World No 12 would mark her second highest career win after defeating the then No 6, Maria Sakkari, at the Australian Open in January.
Krejcikova, though, is a former World No 2, and back on the cusp of the top 10 having had a successful season after a year plagued with injuries, and she is expected to find her way into the final.
In the other semi-final, Ostapenko, the 2nd seed takes on 4th-seeded Potapova, who have not faced each other before either.
With a mere 4 ranking points between them, the outcome is anyone’s guess, but Ostapenko has a proven track record on the grass, having won Eastbourne among her 5 WTA Tour titles.
The 26-year-old, ranked 17, is one of the best ball-strikers in the world, and is looking to win her first WTA trophy since Dubai 2022.
22-year old Potapova stands in her way, who has two Tour titles to her name but has yet to win any silverware on grass, having lost to eventual champion Ons Jabeur here in Birmingham in the quarter-finals in 2021.
After winning her first WTA tournament in Istanbul last year, the World No 21 has since gone on to win her second in Linz ahead of reaching her first Masters 1000 quarter-final at the Miami Open.