SINGAPORE -- No.7 seed Jelena Ostapenko put a halt to Karolina Pliskova’s pristine run through the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global, as the Latvian dismantled the 3rd-seeded Czech on Thursday, 6-3, 6-1.
In a match where the fates of both players had been settled -- Pliskova had already clinched first place in the White Group, while it was impossible for Ostapenko to advance to the semifinals -- it was the deep, heavy hitting of the Latvian which gave her a maiden victory over Pliskova, after losing their first two meetings.
"It was my last match here today," Ostapenko said during her post-match press conference. "I really tried to enjoy every moment. I think I was playing quite relaxed, and I just showed my best today."
"You have to be really prepared for every match, because players who get here, they play on a very high level, and every match will be a battle," Ostapenko surmised.
Pliskova dropped only four games in each of her two initial round-robin wins over Venus Williams and Garbiñe Muguruza, but she had no answer for Ostapenko, whose risky, powerful game was in the form which led her to the French Open title earlier this year.
Ostapenko hit an astounding 25 winners to only 14 unforced errors in the match, and won an excellent 72 percent of the points on her usually shaky second serve. But Pliskova's typically overwhelming game yielded only eight winners, which were overshadowed by 17 unforced errors, including five double faults.
"I was returning her serve very well, it gave me a lot of advantages," Ostapenko continued. "Also, I was serving pretty well today, better than the other days. I was not, I think, missing that many balls, like making that many unforced errors and still making a lot of winners."
Pliskova started strong with wonderful movement, galloping from side to side on the baseline before slamming a running forehand winner on the first point of Ostapenko's first service game. The Czech held three break points in that game, and it already seemed like the momentum from her earlier matches was still present.
But Ostapenko held her nerve and her serve, and after escaping that game, it was the Latvian who instead jumped ahead, breaking for 2-1 after a woeful Pliskova service game which featured multiple double faults, including one while down break point.
A flurry of errors by Ostapenko let Pliskova back on serve at 2-2, but the seventh seed claimed the lead again when she broke the Czech for 4-3 in a marathon game. There, Pliskova clawed her way out of a 0-40 deficit and twice hit aces to bring up game points of her own, but Ostapenko broke when a forehand by the Czech went awry.
It was a completely dominant display by Ostapenko from that point on. With Pliskova serving down 3-5, an Ostapenko crosscourt backhand stunner brought up triple set point. The reigning French Open champion then sealed the set with a winner off of her forehand, her signature wing of the match.
The second set was no contest. Another Pliskova double fault gave Ostapenko the first break of the set for a 2-0 lead. Pliskova finally got on the board for 3-1, but, by then, Ostapenko, the WTA Most Improved Player of the Year, was in full flight, holding for 4-1 with an ace followed by another forehand winner.
Another superb shot off the forehand side gave Ostapenko an insurance break for 5-1, and a routine love service hold was all it took to have Ostapenko end her first WTA Finals appearance with a comprehensive 66-minute victory.
Pliskova, the ace leader for the year, only won 48 percent of the points on her serve. The Czech, who has won three Premier singles titles in 2017, will have to brush this performance off as she prepares for her assigned date in the semifinals on Saturday versus the second-place finisher from the Red Group.