It took Jelena Ostapenko just 67 minutes to win her first grass court title at the Viking International Eastbourne on Saturday when she swept past Anett Kontaveit, 6-3 6-3, to lift the trophy.
It's great to win a title before Wimbledon.I've enjoyed this week so much. I've got some confidence and now it's time I show some good tennis at Wimbledon. I'm really happy with the way I played this week. There were some close moments but I kept on fighting. The semi-final and the final I played at a really high level and that give me confidence. To play well for the whole tournament is very important because it has been a while since a won a title. Jelena Ostapenko
It was the perfect Wimbledon warm-up for the Latvian, crowning an impressive week at Devonshire Park with a flawless performance in the all-Baltic battle.
“I think I was honestly very calm going into the match,” Ostapenko said. “I had no stress at all.
“I warmed up really well, and I was really ready. I was just expecting a really tough match, because I knew she’s a great player and it’s going to be really hard to play against her.
“I was trying to play more aggressive and to go for the shots when I had chances.
“I think I served really well today, I returned and changed the directions [which] also helped me a lot. And using drop-shots and different kind of shots, sometimes slices I did from the forehand.”
Ostapenko has struggled in recent years to match the form that took her to the 2017 French Open title, but there was little doubt as to the Latvian’s credentials at Eastbourne where her 4th career title sends her to the All England Club full of confidence.
“I’m really happy with the way I played the whole week,” said Ostapenko following her first title since 2019 in Luxembourg. “There were some close matches, but I was fighting till the last moment.
“I played really well, and I think the semi-final and final I played really on a high level.”
It was by no means easy for the 24-year old, who eliminated French finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Birmingham finalists Ons Jabeur and Daria Kasatkina, before taking out Elena Rybakina in the semi-final.
Ranked 43 in the world, Ostapenko was handed a wild-card to Eastbourne and could well be a contender at The Championships where she was a semi-finalist in 2018.
Kontaveit, who was seeking her second career title, has now lost her last 5 finals with her first loss in 3 matches against Ostapenko.
It was a dream start for the Latvian, who picked up where she left off from a resounding victory semi-final on Friday against Rybakina, her outstanding return game doing damage from the get-go.
A crosscourt return winner allowed her to clinch the first service break of the match at 1-1, and then she used incredible depth from that shot to build her lead to 4-1 with a second break.
Although the Estonian had won the two previous clashes between the pair, Ostapenko never looked back after racing into an early 5-1 lead in the first set.
The Latvian served for the opener at 5-2, but Kontaveit proved that she could match Ostapenko in that game, as the Estonian World No 27 knocked off 4 stunning service return winners in a row to break to love, edging closer in the set.
Kontaveit’s late charge, however, faltered as she let a 40-15 lead slip away in the next game, and ceded the set with a double-fault.
Ostapenko clinched the only break of the second at 2-1, and she eased through the remainder of the match from there.
Serving for the match at 5-3, a forehand winner gave Ostapenko 2 championship points, the first of which was saved by Kontaveit with a forehand return winner, but she converted her second chance as a return from the Estonian flew long.
Ostapenko crunched 24 winners, 7 more than Kontaveit’s 17, producing a brutal display of power hitting to become only the third wild-card in 43 years to win the Eastbourne title, and emulating Monica Seles in 1996 and Julie Halard-Decugis in 2000.
She also did not hit a double-fault in the match, maintaining her clean sheet for the second consecutive match and winning over 78 percent of her first-service points in the final.
“I think it’s just the beginning,” 24-year-old wildcard Ostapenko said. “If I keep playing the way I played this tournament, I think I can be back in the top 10 and play well.
“I just have to keep that in my mind and work even harder.”
Ostapenko received £49,193 for lifting the title, a 60 percent drop on the prize money received 2019, while runner-up Kontaveit took a cheque for £36,588, which was down 45 percent on 2019.
In fact, the total prize money for the WTA 500 event was $565,530, which was reduced by 43.37 percent compared to the 2019 total of $998,712.
For certain, Ostapenko was not thinking about the prize money, though.
“It’s great to win a title before Wimbledon,” the world number 43 said. “I’ve enjoyed this week so much.
“I’ve got some confidence and now it’s time I show some good tennis at Wimbledon.
“I’m really happy with the way I played this week. There were some close moments but I kept on fighting.
“The semi-final and the final I played at a really high level and that give me confidence.
“To play well for the whole tournament is very important because it has been a while since a won a title.
“Everything changed in 2017 [after French Open title], it took me a while to get used to it, but now I’m enjoying [my tennis] and living in the moment.
“I can be dangerous and play on all surfaces. I can adjust and I think it’s great that.”
In the doubles final, No 2 seeds Shuko Aoyama & Ena Shibahara got back to their title-winning ways with a 6-1 6-4 victory over top seeds American Nicole Melichar & Demi Schuurs from the Netherlands.
When asked what the key was to their success in Eastbourne, Aoyama responded: “I had beef dinner every day. I tried to fight more, and just focus on the current point. It was a very good match.”
The Japanese duo had won 3 titles in the first quarter of the season, at Abu Dhabi, the Yarra Valley Classic in Melbourne, and the Miami Open and although they were unable to reach a final during the clay court swing, they returned to the winner’s circle after a 68-minute victory on the grass of Eastbourne.
“We’ve had some ups and downs this year, and we make sure that even in our downs, we keep telling each other that we can improve, so that we can get to that next level,” Shibahara said. “I think this week was really good for us.”
Aoyama & Shibahara saved all 3 of the break points they faced in the clash, while converting 3 of the 4 break points they held against the top seeds, to move to 4-0 in doubles finals this season.
In fact, the Japanese pair have won their last seven doubles finals, dating back to 2019.
Eastbourne is the 16th WTA doubles title for Aoyama in her career, and her 2nd title on grass courts, while Shibahara now has 7 career WTA doubles titles, all coming with Aoyama.