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Ostapenko opens St Petersburg campaign with a win

Jelena Ostapenko was the only seed in action on Monday at the first indoor WTA 500 event of the season, the St Petersburg Ladies Trophy in Russia, and she came through her opening round with a dominant win over Paula Badosa, 6-2 6-2, in under an hour.

Today was a good match, and I feel I played aggressively, and served well,. In general, I’m happy with the way I played; I was very consistent and felt very confident. Jelena Ostapenko

“Today was a good match, and I feel I played aggressively, and served well,” said the former French Open champion who is seeded 6th here. “In general, I’m happy with the way I played; I was very consistent and felt very confident.”

The Latvian’s first career WTA title came in St. Petersburg when, as a teenager, she partnered Alicja Rosolska to win the doubles event here in 2017, and she has been a regular attendee since.

A couple of weeks ago, at the Qatar Total Open, she blitzed former World No 4 Kiki Bertens, who was playing her first match since undergoing Achilles surgery, and went on to reach the doubles final with Monica Niculescu, while Spain’s Badosa reached the semi-finals at the Open 6ème Sens Métropole de Lyon.

Indoors, Badosa could do little to interrupt Ostapenko’s imperious rhythm, unable to even engineer a break point in the 52-minute clash.

“This tournament is always great,” Ostapenko said. “Of course, it’s a bit different this year, and we obviously can’t have the cool player parties, or things like that.

“But in general, it’s always great to come here because I have relatives here and it’s also a Russian-speaking country. It’s not exactly a home tournament, but close to one. I love to play here: the hotel is amazing, the courts are nice, and the food is so good here.

“The opportunities are great here, too—even if things are a bit different.”

The Latvian claimed her maiden major title in Paris days after her 20th birthday, but has been out of sorts for a couple of years since reaching the 2018 Wimbledon semi-finals.

A wrist injury derailed her 2019 pre-season and accelerated a dip in the rankings that bottomed out at No 83 from her career-high of No 5.

She showed promise at the end 2019 when she linked up with 2013 Wimbledon winner Marion Bartoli and reached back-to-back finals to conclude an uneven season, winning her 3rd WTA title in Luxembourg.

Bartoli was on hand to help Ostapenko in Dubai last week, although their collaboration is largely remote since the Frenchwoman had a baby last year.

“It was tough for her to travel in those first couple of months, but I’ve always been in touch with her, texting and talking,” explained Ostapenko. “She was helping me in Dubai, and I think she’ll help me in a couple more tournaments—maybe not Miami, but after, on the clay courts.

“We’re always in touch with her, and I’ll definitely work with her again.”

Ostapenko struck 26 winners to just 8 unforced errors against Badosa while maintaining a solid serving day, making 66 percent of her first serves and hitting 4 aces, signalling a welcome return to some form.

“I think in general, I’ve been having good matches. Sometimes they didn’t go my way, but the key is for me to fight for every match and even if I’m not playing my best game, to do all I can to find it.

“Everything comes with confidence and winning matches, and once I start winning more, I’ll feel even greater confidence and have better results.”

The 23-year-old will next face either Romanian qualifier Jacqueline Cristian or Belarusian Vera Lapko, with former World No  2 Svetlana Kuznetsova waiting in the wings as a potential quarter-final opponent.


Clara Tauson continued her winning ways from Lyon through St Petersburg qualifying

© Alexandre Hergott/Open 6ème Sens - Métropole de Lyon

Earlier in the day, another Belarusian, Aliaksandra Sasnovich, rallied from a set down to defeat Ana Bogdan from Romania, 2-6 6-2 6-1, and will next take on either home favourite Daria Kasatkina, a former World No 10, or Danish teenager Clara Tauson, who came through qualifying to book her spot in the main draw.

Fresh off her incredible run to the Lyon title a week ago, the 18-year-old eased through 2 rounds of qualifying without the loss of a set, bringing her tally to 20 consecutive sets won by the Dane across all levels.

Unlike most of the players in the draw, who have been playing outdoors for the past 2 months, Tauson is playing her 3rd straight indoor tournament and will put her 13-match winning streak up against Kasatkina in the first round.

After an inspired showing at the Phillip Island Trophy to end her 2-year title drought, however, Kasatkina returns to St. Petersburg a rejuvenated player, now ranked No 61.

Played indoors at the Sibur Arena, this is the 6th staging of the St Petersburg Ladies Trophy. where the top seed is Russia’s Ekaterina Alexandrova, with compatriot Veronika Kudermetova at No 2, France’s Fiona Ferro seeded 3 and Russians Svetlana Kuznetsova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova at 4 and 5.

There are 10 Russian women in the singles draw, all seeking to win this title for the first time, including Vera Zvonareva, who was a 6-1 6-3 winner over Australia qualifier Arina Rodionova.

With two-time champion Bertens opting not to defend her title this year, only France’s Kristina Mladenovic, the No 7 seed, is a former champion in this year’s draw.

 





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