Linz | Ostapenko edges past Tauson as Vekic and Mertens also advance to Last 8 in Austria

Top-seeded Jelena Ostapenko needed all her wits to survive a strong challenge from Clara Tauson to open her account at the Upper Austria Ladies Linz on Thursday, and set up a 2nd-round meeting with British No 2 Jodie Burrage, while fellow seeds, both of whom received 1st-round byes, Donna Vekic and Elise Mertens got off their marks to complete the Last 16 line-up at the WTA 500 tournament.

I'm really proud of myself that I was really fighting until the last point, even though I was down. Jelena Ostapenko

Ostapenko edged past Tauson, 3-6 6-4 7-6(7), despite the Dane holding a 12-6 advantage in aces and converting 8 of her 11 break points to keep the Latvian on her toes.

Trailing 5-3 in the third set and facing match point in the 9th game, Ostapenko charged back to force a deciding tiebreak, in which the World No 12 finally prevailed on her own 3rd match point after 2 hours and 21 minutes.

“I’m really proud of myself that I was really fighting until the last point, even though I was down,” Ostapenko said afterwards.

The Latvian was playing her first match since losing in the Australian Open doubles final on Sunday, and  also trailed Tauson 1-4 in the second set, and the No 125-ranked qualifier held a match point as she served for the match at 5-3 in the third, only for Ostapenko to end a high-octane exchange with a backhand winner.

Ostapenko had lost to Tauson in 3 sets in their only previous meeting, the 2021 Luxembourg final, but she gained her revenge in Linz in a roller-coaster contest that featured several wild momentum swings.

A slow start saw the former Roland Garros champion quickly fall 1-5 behind, and she did not build any sustained form until she was staring defeat in the face in the second set.

Then, with Ostapenko now seemingly in full flow, having levelled the match with a run of 5 straight games, Tauson raised her own level to edge out in front in the decider, aided by her mounting tally of 12 aces.

Down match point Ostapenko found another cascade of winners just in time, and prevailed in a tightly-contested tiebreak, converting on her 3rd match point with a full-power forehand put-away, her 51st winner of the match, combating her 37 unforced errors.

Defending champion Anastasia Potapova had to fight from a set down to overcome Elisabetta Cocciaretto on Thursday

© Alexander Scheuber/Getty Images for MatchMaker

Ostapenko wasn’t the only player escaping from the brink of defeat on Thursday, though, with defending champion and 5th-seeded Potapova having to save 2 match points in a second-set tiebreak before quelling Italian Elisabetta Cocciaretto, 2-6 7-6(9) 7-5, in 2 hours and 54 minutes.

The Russian needed 2 attempts to serve out the win, and 4 match points of her own to seal her win for a meeting with her compatriot, the No 2 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova, who beat German qualifier Jule Niemeier, 6-3 6-0, to book her spot in the Last 8 on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Vekic, the No 3 seed from Croatia, had a much easier time dispatching Ukraine’s Dayana Yastremska, a wild-card, 6-1 6-1, in 64 minutes, while 4th-seeded Mertens of Belgium also cruised ahead, 6-1 6-3, over Italian Lucia Bronzetti, while France’s Clara Burel beat her Czech opponent Katerina Siniakova, 6-3 5-7 6-4.

For a place in the semis on Friday, Vekic will face face Burel, who reached the first WTA 500 quarter-final of her career with her win over Siniakova, while Mertens, Ostapenko’s conqueror in the Australian Open doubles final, faces another Russian, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the conqueror of Britain’s Katie Boulter on Wednesday.



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