Linz | Ostapenko breezes past Burrage into semi-finals

The top 3 seeds prevailed at the Upper Austria Ladies Linz on Friday to advance to the semi-finals at the WTA 500 indoor tournament, led by Jelena Ostapenko, who breezed past Britain’s Jodie Burrage, while 2nd-seeded Ekaterina Alexandrova toppled 5th seed and defending champ Anastasia Potapova, and No 3 Donna Vekic beat Clara Burel, but Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova provided the only upset of the day when she defeated Elise Mertens, the 4th seed, all in straight sets.

It's close, but so far at the same time. I haven't had a trophy in a long time, so it would be really nice. It's nice to be in the semi-finals, so I'll try to enjoy that, and of course, there are serious opponents out there, so I'm just going to take it match by match. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

Burrage, the British No 2, made a positive start by immediately breaking the Ostapenko serve, but an inner-thigh injury sustained in the second game of the match hampered her, and the Latvian swept to a 6-1 6-2 win in just 70 minutes.

The Briton had to qualify for the main draw, and was the lowest-ranked player to advance to the Linz quarter-finals, earning her spot with statement wins over Varvara Gracheva, the 7th seed from France, and Jaqueline Cristian, a lucky loser from Romania, en route to a first-ever top-level meeting with Ostapenko.

Burrage put pressure on the Latvian’s serve right away and, unexpectedly, broke the top seed in the opening game of the match, but Ostapenko immediately broke back on her 4th attempt before the injury took hold of the Brit and began to limit her.

The 24-year-old needed a medical time-out midway through the first set, after which Ostapenko continued her ruthless fight-back and saw out a 6-game winning streak, but Burrage squandered a chance for a break back when the Latvian was serving for the set.

Despite opening the second with a hold to 30, Burrage continued to be swamped by Ostapenko, who won 5 games on the trot before the British No 2 delayed her semi-final advancement with just her 3rd hold of the match.

Ostapenko missed her first match point but made no mistake with her second chance, having taken full advantage as Burrage rapidly lost her confidence, and the 2019 finalist moved into another semi-final.

The Latvian only arrived in Austria on Wednesday, having played in the final of the women’s doubles at the Australian Open on Sunday, and she finished past midnight in her opening match against Denmark’s Clara Tauson, saving a match point in the process.

Jodie Burrage broke Jelena Ostapenko in the opening game but sustained a thigh injury and fell in straight sets in the Last 8 in Linz, Austria

© Barbara Gindl/APA/AFP via Getty Images

Ostapenko will face Pavlyuchenkova, the 2015 champion in Linz, who had too many weapons for Belgium’s Mertens as the Russian claimed a 6-3 6-2 win in 73 minutes by converting 4 of her 6 break-point opportunities, and winning 6 straight games in the second set.

Pavlyuchenkova booked a spot in just her 2nd tour-level semi-final since 2022, knee surgery having forced her to miss 8 months off the tour.

“Our last match … was 3 hours, and I was mentally prepared for similar,” said Pavlyuchenkova, who hit 32 winners to Mertens’ 8 and broke the Belgian 4 times. “I think I was tired already before the match!

“I’m so happy with my performance, because I think from the start ’til the end, I did so well. I was ready every point, because it doesn’t matter the score, she’s always there. I think that’s one of the best qualities she has, such a good fighter.”

Pavlyuchenkova takes a 4-1 head-to-head record into her semi-final meeting with Ostapenko as she bids for her first appearance in a singles final since finishing as the runner-up to Barbora Krejcikova at Roland Garros in 2021.

The Russian has not won a tour-level singles title since 2018, but, 9 years ago, she beat German Anna-Lena Friedsam in the Linz final, and says it would ‘a dream’ to win in Austria again.

“It’s close, but so far at the same time,” Pavlyuchenkova said. “I haven’t had a trophy in a long time, so it would be really nice.

“It’s nice to be in the semi-finals, so I’ll try to enjoy that, and of course, there are serious opponents out there, so I’m just going to take it match by match.”

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova upset 4th-seed Elise Mertens in straight sets and plays Jelena Ostapenko on Saturday for a spot in the final

© Alexander Scheuber/Getty Images for MatchMaker

Ostapenko, meanwhile, also is seeking a second appearance in the final in Linz after finishing runner-up to Coco Gauff 4 years ago.

The Latvian will be the World No 11 on Monday, and, after a disappointing 2023 campaign, has started this season with strong showings in Australia, despite being defeated twice by Victoria Azarenka.

Nevertheless, Ostapenko bagged the title in Adelaide and briefly held a place in the Top 10, but then slipped down to No 12 following the Australian Open.

Linz is proving a platform for the ambitious in the rankings, with World No 21 Alexandrova from Russia securing a 2-place jump already, while the title would net the semi-finalist a rise to equal her career-high of No 16 next week.

Alexandrova is set for a Last 4 battle with World No 34 Vekic from Croatia, who has put herself in position for a 5-spot rankings jump at least, and a run to the title would see her jump an extra 7 places to be World No 22.

Vekic started the day with a 6-0 7-6(3) win over France’s Burel, a match she led 6-0, 3-1, 0-40, before being forced into a breaker, while Alexandrova, the 2018 Linz finalist, toppled Anastasia Potapova, 6-2 7-6(8).

In the quarter-final battle between the two Russians, Alexandrova put paid to Potapova’s title defence hopes after an hour and 26 minutes.

No 2 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova prevailed over defending champion Anastasia Potapova and will meet Donna Vekic in the Last 4

© Barbara Gindl/APA/AFP via Getty Images



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