Defending champion Jelena Ostapenko from Latvia, the No 3 seed at the BGL BNP Paribas Luxembourg Open, overcame a late but spirited second set challenge from 7th-seeded Russian Liudmila Samsonova to set up a trophy match against Denmark’s Clara Tauson, who needed 3 sets to upset Czech Marketa Vondrousova, the 5th seed, in the semi-finals on Saturday.
At some point I stopped playing my game. I missed so many balls and I started to rush. [But the key was] to fight to stay in the match. I played really well in the beginning but I couldn't close it - I had to fight and enjoy it.
It took Ostapenko, the 2017 French Open champion, an hour 28 minutes to come through her match, 6-1 7-6(4), while 18-year old Tauson needed a shade over 2 hours to get past Olympic silver medalist Vondrousova, 6-4 2-6 6-4.
“At some point I stopped playing my game,” admitted Ostapenko, who won the tournament in 2019. “I missed so many balls and I started to rush. [But the key was] to fight to stay in the match.
“I played really well in the beginning but I couldn’t close it – I had to fight and enjoy it.”
Sunday’s final is her second of the year, having won the title at Eastbourne in June, and the 10th of her career.
In a battle between two of this year’s grass-court champions, Ostapenko dominated the match with spectacular play until 6-1, 5-1, but was unable to serve it out twice as Samsonova, the World No 48, began to mount her last stand come-back.
Ultimately, Ostapenko needed all of her focus to clinch the straight-sets win by reeling off 6 points in a row from 1-4 down in the tiebreak.
She struck 25 winner to 14 unforced errors, while Samsonova had 15 to 9, but the Latvian held the edge on serve, landing 62% of her first deliveries compared to the Russian’s 53%.
22-year-old Samsonova only won 9 points behind her second serve in the match, including just one in the first set, while Ostapenko was the sharper on the big points, despite her second-set wobble, saving 3 break points to hold in the 3rd game, and using her escape to rattle off 9 games in a row.
Samsonova was unable to convert any of her 4 break points in the first set, while Ostapenko converted each of the 4 she made over the course of the match.
A combination of Ostapenko errors and ferocious Samsonova returns put the latter on the brink of pulling off an unlikely come-back but, at 1-4 down in the tiebreak, Ostapenko managed to steady the ship without sacrificing aggression.
In the second semi-final, Tauson, the youngest player in the draw who stands 6 foot tall, gritted her way through a close 3rd set to beat Vondrousova, the World No 35, in their first meeting.
A pair of double-faults cost Vondrousova her serve in the opening game, and Tauson used that advantage, and her powerful forehand, to sweep to an early 3-1 lead.
The Czech saved 4 break points in the next game, then levelled the set at 3-3, but Tauson’s forehand again gave her another break for 4-3, and she eased to the set from there.
Vondrousova, the 2019 Roland Garros finalist, struck back in the second, firing her lefty forehand down the line to earn a break for 2-0, and she cut down her errors throughout the remainder of the set, eventually breaking Tauson to love to level up the match with ease.
An exchange of breaks in the first 2 games of the decider was followed by a run of extremely easy holds to 4-4, but then Tauson produced more forehand winners and was rewarded with a break for 5-4, before subsequently closing out the match.
The rising Dane, a former junior World No 1 who won her maiden WTA singles title earlier this year in Lyon, also on indoor hard-courts, came through with 41 winners to just 20 unforced errors.
The 18-year old continues her run of recent good form, having been the most recent player to beat US Open champion Emma Raducanu in the WTA 125 Chicago final, and then pushed World No 1 Ash Barty in a two-set loss in New York.
Tauson, who came into this event ranked at a career-high of 70, is now into her second final of her young career.
In the Doubles final, Greet Minnen & Alison Van Uytvanck won their second WTA doubles title, as the Belgians dismissed their compatriot Kimberley Zimmermann & Erin Routliffe from New Zealand, 6-3 6-3, on Saturday.
The Belgian pair took just 59 minutes to pick up the trophy, which was the first WTA doubles title for each of them since they triumphed as a duo at the very same event 3 years ago.
Minnen & Van Uytvanck never faced a break point in the clash, while converting 3 of their 6 break chances, as they swept to victory, winning a whopping 83 percent of service points on the day, including 7 of their 8 second-service points.