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By Richard Pagliaro | Saturday, February 19, 2022


Jelena Ostapenko broke serve six times sweeping Veronika Kudermetova 6-0, 6-4 in the Dubai final for her fifth career WTA championship.

Photo credit: Getty

Timing is terrifying when Jelena Ostapenko is ripping in rhythm.

Rocking back and forth in a predatory return position, Ostapenko rolled through six service breaks high-stepping to her fifth career title with a 6-0, 6-4 rout of Veronika Kudermetova in today's Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships final.

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"I'm really happy with the title," said Ostapenko, who improved to 5-6 in career finals. "I think in general the whole week I was playing really well, had some great wins.

"I think especially today I was very focused and really into the match. Yeah, I played well. I was dictating from the beginning so it was hard for her."

A former professional ballroom dancer, Ostapenko choreographed captivating championship run in the desert.

The 2017 Roland Garros champion conquered four consecutive Grand Slam champions—Sofia Kenin, Iga Swiatek, Petra Kvitova and Simona Halep, rallying from a set down in the last three matches—to reach the final.

Facing fatigue and a fresher opponent she’s known since their junior days, Ostapenko obliterated all challenges in a 65-minute thrashing that saw her surge through the first six games and close sweeping six of the final eight games.

It is Ostapenko’s first title since Eastbourne last June as she improves to 10-3 on the season with a commanding performance that propels her to No. 13 in the live rankings

Tennis Express

"When I'm in the final, I always want to win because, as many people say, people remember only winners," Ostapenko said. "It's always, like, annoying to lose in the final. I really was focusing, really ready for a battle today. Very focused the whole match I think, especially in the beginning. I mean, I played really well.

"Yeah, it's just great to finish the week with a title, especially in singles."

In a rare occurrence, the pair squared off again in the doubles final with Kudermetova gaining a measure of revenge partnering Elise Mertens to a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Ostapenko and Lyudmyla Kichenok in 58 minutes.

Kudermetova knocked off Victoria Azarenka, defending champion Garbine Muguruza and Jil Teichmann before taking a walkover from Marketa Vondrousova into the final.

Despite spending 90 minutes less on court than Ostapenko, the 31st-ranked Russian found herself playing catch-up from the very first serve missile Ostapenko unloaded to open the match.

"I think Jelena, she play very well today," Kudermetova said. "She play very aggressive from the beginning of the match. She don't give me, like, easy mistakes. She play only winners.

"I think I can play better, but I don't know why. I think today is not my day. I didn't find my game."

Bursting out of the blocks with authority, Ostapenko wrapped a pair of love holds around a break powering to a 3-0 lead after a mere nine points.

Blasting deep returns, Ostapenko’s predatory posture atop the baseline rattled Kudermetova into a double fault to surrender the opening break.

Returns were coming back at her so fast, Kudermetova looked like a woman trying to tap-dance away from lightning strikes landing near her feet. Playing with heavy tapping wrapping her left thigh, the Russian was more well-rested, but Ostapenko was pure fire in a blazing start.

Ostapenko slashed a pair of crackling return winners—an acute-angled backhand and a flat forehand crosscourt—breaking again to dish out the opening-set bagel in just 21 minutes. Lashing drives all over the court, Ostapenko won 26 of 34 points in the set, while Kudermetova sabotaged her hopes serving just 22 percent.

The locked-in Latvian was riding a streak of 12 straight games—Ostapenko shutout Simona Halep in the final set of her 2-6, 7-6, 6-0 semifinal win yesterday—but Kudermetova stopped that streak breaking to start the second set.

The 24-year-old Russian was moving better, making more first serves, extending points and exploiting the Latvian’s lapse taking a 2-0 second-set lead.

That Kudermetova run prompted a rebuttal from Ostapenko who splattered a return winner off the sideline scoring her fourth break to even the set after four games.

An oppressive Ostapenko was beating Kudermetova to the ball and slamming shots with the menace of a woman determined to knock the fuzz off the ball and split the seams.

Stepping inside the baseline to take the ball on the rise, Ostapenko sent drives dive-bombing near the opposing baseline rattling out a netted response to break for 5-3.

Though Kudermetova broke back in the ninth game it was a temporary reprieve.

Former world No. 5 Ostapenko converted her second championship point fittingly scoring one final break to close.


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