As Denmark’s 18-year old Clara Tauson upset defending champion Jelena Ostapenko, the No 3 seed from Latvia, to claim the BGL BNP Paribas Luxembourg Open title, news broke that this is the last edition of the 25-year old event.
I think I’m playing much more solidly now. I don’t go for stupid things too much anymore; I think it’s because I’m much more physically fit, that I can mentally stay longer in rallies and give one more shot instead of trying to finish points all the time. I think that paid off a lot, especially this week with me running everywhere; it’s not very often you see me all over the court! It was new thing for me to try, and I think it was really nice to know I can play these kinds of matches. Clara Tauson
Tauson, who is Denmark’s rising talent, took out the reigning champion on Sunday, 6-3 4-6 6-4, in a thrilling contest that lasted 2 hours 5 minutes to claim her second WTA title.
Then, on its Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages, tournament organisers posted: “After 25 years of collaborating with the WTA, the IWTP decided that it wants to go back to its roots. From next year on, it will organise an invitation tournament, which is how they started 30 years ago. Stay tuned for more information on this in the following weeks!”
During the final, Tauson broke Ostapenko’s serve twice to claim the opening set, but the Latvian then saved a break point midway in the second before rallying to force the enthralling battle into a decider.
The World No 70 recovered from an early loss of serve in the final set, and then maintained her composure to claim her second WTA title of the year after landing her maiden trophy at Lyon in March.
“Obviously, I am feeling relieved and good,” Tauson said. “It was a tough match again today. I am just happy that I come through.”
She also won the Chicago WTA 125 trophy in August, where she defeated eventual-US Open champion Emma Raducanu.
At 13, Tauson became the youngest ever female Danish champion, surpassing the record set by a 14-year-old Caroline Wozniacki, became European Youth Olympic champion in 2017 and European junior champion in 2018, before topping the junior world rankings in 2019 when she also made her WTA Tour debut.
She is one of 4 talented teenagers in the world Top 100, alongside Raducanu, Leylah Fernandez and Marta Kostyuk.
In fact, Tauson is the last person to beat Raducanu in her last 15 matches, having got past the Brit in the final of the Chicago Challenger last month.
Ostapenko was bidding to defend a title for the first time in her career, and to become the 4th player to successfully defend the Luxembourg crown following Jana Novotna (1991-92), Martina Navratilova (1993-94) and Kim Clijsters (2001-03).
Coming into the final on Sunday, the Latvian was the overwhelming favourite, having not having lost a match in Luxembourg since making her first appearance at the event in 2019 and holding a 9-0 record.
Tauson, however, was the sharper from the get-go, taking the first set and adding to Ostapenko’s pressure, although the 24-year Latvian pulled off a second-set turnaround with some exhilarating shotmaking on crucial points, nailing a smash to break Tauson for 4-3, which she carried over into the final set, firing consecutive return winners to take a 2-1 lead with the break.
The Dane maintained an impressively consistent level throughout the match, unfazed by Ostapenko’s most electric ball-striking and she responded immediately in the third with 2 straight return winners of her own to break back, then saved 2 break points en route to a marathon 5-deuce hold for 3-2.
The first set was decided by a game in which Ostapenko found the net 3 times to drop serve for 1-2; and, serving to stay in the match at 4-5 in the third, she coughed up a 4th double-fault and a slew of errant backhands to seal the title for Tauson.
“In Lyon, I think I had a dream week,” the 18-year-old explained after outlasting Ostapenko. “I played unbelievable tennis and I didn’t think about anything; I just played every match and won easily against really good players.
“Here, I had to fight for every single match, so I might be even happier about this result because it required such a tough fight.”
The win over the 2017 French Open champion was Tauson’s 3rd three-set victory of the week, backing up thrilling wins over 4th-seeded Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova and 2020 Tokyo Olympics runner-up Marketa Vondrousova from the Czech Republic, and showing off a newfound willingness to temper her high-octane game.
“I think I’m playing much more solidly now. I don’t go for stupid things too much anymore; I think it’s because I’m much more physically fit, that I can mentally stay longer in rallies and give one more shot instead of trying to finish points all the time.
“I think that paid off a lot, especially this week with me running everywhere; it’s not very often you see me all over the court! It was new thing for me to try, and I think it was really nice to know I can play these kinds of matches.”
Standing 6 foot tall, Tauson struck 31 winners, including 8 aces, to Ostapenko’s 34, but the biggest difference in the match, which also reflected their styles of play, came about in the unforced error count, with the Latvian spraying 23 to the Dane’s tidy 6.
Following her success at the Luxembourg Open, Tauson reaches a new career-high of 52 in the world this week.
Interestingly, Tauson, who trains at the Justine Henin Academy with Belgian coach Olivier Jeunehomme, had not played a tour-level 3-setter all season before capturing the title in Chicago against Raducanu after having to go the distance.
“Before Chicago, I didn’t play a lot of three-setters,” she said. “I think the first that I actually won was in Chicago, so I’m really happy about that.
“It’s very important for me, mentally and physically, that I can play those kinds of matches and fight back… even if it’s because I’m losing the second set every single time!”
Taking on Ostapenko with an ominously strapped left thigh, Tauson withstood a formidable challenge from the enigmatic Latvian, surviving a crucial 5th game in the decider to ultimately break for the title at her first opportunity.
“I was pretty tired today, and didn’t feel well all morning, so I didn’t expect too much from the match today,” Tauson admitted.
“I wanted to go in and fight as much as I could, and I did; I gave it everything I had, so I don’t think I’ll have anything for the next couple of days! I’ll just be in bed!”
Tauson wisely tries to stay away from social media at a time when the hype surrounding her is building.
“I’m really bad at following social media,” she said. “I talk very privately with my friends and I don’t look at it too much.
“I don’t know why, because I used to look at it a lot. Now, I just talk to my friends, so I haven’t seen a lot but I’m sure I have a lot of messages right now.”
Tauson’s season record is now 37-13, with 14-8 in WTA main draws, and she becomes the 7th player this season to capture multiple trophies, joining 5-time champion Ash Barty, 3-time winner Barbora Krejcikova and 2-time titlists Aryna Sabalenka, Iga Swiatek, Danielle Collins and Daria Kasatkina.
“I had a weird season,” she said. “I didn’t expect to be here at all.
‘I was hoping to maybe move into the Top 100 but now I’m almost Top 50, so I’m a little bit surprised, but super happy about the way I’ve played, especially in the recent weeks.
“I think I’ve improved a lot in various things, so I’m just looking forward to the next couple of weeks and until the end of the year.”
Meanwhile, ubitennis.net reports that Luxembourg Open Tournament Director Danielle Maas has accused the WTA of making organisers feel ‘uncomfortable’ with their rules, which prevented them from running the event how they would have liked to.
Maas revealed to the newspaper Tageblatt that their decision to permanently end the tournament was made before the start of this year’s draw, ending what has been a 25-year stint as a WTA event which has been won by players such as Clijsters, Victoria Azarenka, Venus Williams and Wozniacki.
“We will no longer organise a WTA tournament,” Maas is quoted as saying in Tageblatt. “That’s a big change. But we no longer feel comfortable working with the WTA.
“The quality of the tournament as we imagine it, the family aspect and everything around it, is no longer given. That’s why we made the decision to quit WTA after 25 years. We are happy to close this chapter, which gave us no more joy.”
Ubitennis also reports that the Gala last Sunday, marking the 25th anniversary of the tournament, was not attended by WTA representatives and players were banned from going.
“The WTA chapter now closes,” Maas said. “For us, however, it does not close with one laughing and one crying eye, but only with one laughing eye. We’ll close this door, but we’ll open a new one next year.”
Organisers have confirmed that Octagon Inc, a partner of the Luxembourg Open, has agreed to continue its collaboration for another two years.
According to ubitennis.net, as yet there has been no public comment from the WTA in response.