SEOUL, South Korea - Jelena Ostapenko is yet to drop a set since becoming the first Latvian woman to crack the WTA's Top 10, easing past Veronica Cepede Royg 6-3, 6-1, to reach the final four at the KEB Hana Bank-Incheon Airport Korea Open.
"It was a tough match. She was playing very well, very aggressively. I just tried to play my game," she said with her signature brevity after the match.
Broken to start the match, Cepede Royg kept things close for much of the opening set before the reigning Roland Garros champion pulled away. After holding in the eighth game, Ostapenko won seven in a row before ultimately closing out the rising Paraguayan star after 72 minutes on court, striking 23 winners and converting four of seven break point opportunities.
"In the first set, I thought I was playing a little bit better. The second set, I didn’t put so many serves in," Ostapenko assessed her game afterwards. "Still, I’m happy with how I finished the match."
The top seed started the year reaching the semifinals at the hardcourt ASB Classic in Auckland, but her next three big runs all came on clay - including her maiden major title in Paris; Seoul marks her first run to a WTA semifinal since the French Open.
The 20-year-old now finds herself her two wins away from what would be the first non-Slam singles title of her young career, having already won a pair of Premier doubles titles this year at the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy and the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix.
Up next for Ostapenko is Thai qualifier Luksika Kumkhum, who barreled her way into her first WTA semifinal since Osaka 2014 with a 6-3, 6-3 upset over No.4 seed Sorana Cirstea.
Cirstea has been playing doubles with Ostapenko this week and looked to be in solid form after defeating resurgent American Nicole Gibbs in straight sets, but the Romanian swiftly found herself behind a set and 5-0 before bowing out after 65 minutes.
"I saw a couple of her matches," Ostapenko said of Kumkhum. "She hits the ball really hard, but I’m also an aggressive player. I think it’ll be a good battle, and I’m looking forward to it."
In the bottom half of the draw, Dutch No.2 Richel Hogenkamp saw off 19-year-old Australian qualifier Priscilla Hon 6-3, 6-4 to move into her maiden WTA semifinal. Hogenkamp had beaten Dutch No.1 and No.2 seed Kiki Bertens in the first round for a career-best win; in the final four, she will face another debut semifinalist in Brazil's Beatriz Haddad Maia. In the last quarterfinal of the day, the unseeded 21-year-old beat Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-4, 6-4.