OSTRAVA, Czech Republic -- Jennifer Brady of the United States staged a strong comeback in the quarterfinals of the J&T Banka Ostrava Open on Friday, fighting back from a set down to overcome Russian qualifier Veronika Kudermetova, 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-1.
After being edged out in an opening set which stretched for nearly an hour, World No.26 Brady rebounded to claim a resurgent win over 47th-ranked Kudermetova in a hard-fought one hour and 57 minutes of play, in the first meeting between the two combatants.
"I think it’s knowing that during the match, just something clicks," Brady told the press, reflecting on her surge of recent wins. "I find out what’s working well, or maybe I start serving better or returning more aggressive."
With the victory, Brady booked a spot in a WTA semifinal for the fourth time in 2020, and those earlier semifinal runs this season have already led to milestones. Brady won her first WTA singles title in Lexington this summer, then followed that up with a run to her first-ever Grand Slam semifinal at the US Open.
"I think with each match that I play, [I'm] getting more confidence or more experience through being down or being able to come back and win," Brady stated. "Not focusing my energy on the fact that I lost the first set, and focus it on how can I win the second set and maybe force a third set."
"The past two three-set matches that I’ve played, the third sets, I’m just feeling really strong mentally and physically," Brady added.
Brady finished the match with 27 winners, over half of which were her whopping 14 aces. Indeed, the American was sterling on serve, winning 83 percent of points off of her first delivery. Kudermetova, who had beaten No.2 seed Karolina Pliskova in the previous round, had 31 winners of her own, but the Russian was undone by 38 unforced errors on the day.
In the final four, Brady will face No.3 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, who staged an astounding comeback to overcome Spanish qualifier Sara Sorribes Tormo in the nightcap quarterfinal. "I’m really looking forward to just going out and competing tomorrow," said Brady, who has never previously faced Sabalenka.
A tightly contested opening frame started with Kudermetova up an early break at 2-1 before Brady steered back on serve to 3-3. From that point forward in the set, Brady was nearly impenetrable on serve, dropping just a single point in her next three service games.
However, the aggressive Kudermetova matched the American power for power, and fired many winners to stay with Brady throughout the set despite typically longer service games. After being pushed to deuce at 6-5, the Russian wrapped up that game with a forehand winner to queue up a first-set tiebreak.
In the breaker, Brady zipped out to a 4-0 lead before Kudermetova started to reel off winners, finding the lines off both sides as she rallied to 4-4. At 5-5, a strong Kudermetova serve was returned long, giving the Russian a set point. In the next rally, Kudermetova punched a passing winner to eke out the one-set lead after 56 minutes.
After out-winnering Brady by 22 to 11 in the first set, Kudermetova had four break points in the American’s first service game of the second set. However, Brady methodically fended off each one of those chances to hold for 1-1, quelling the Russian’s momentum.
"I was obviously pretty frustrated with myself after losing the first set in the tiebreak, after being up 4-0," said Brady. "Once I was able to get that hold [for 1-1], I was telling myself to just focus on each point, and then see what happens."
The rally depth by Brady began to become more effective, and she was rewarded for her improvement with two break points at 2-2. Another superb serve by Kudermetova helped her stave off the first, but on the second, the Russian netted a forehand to cede the 3-2 lead to Brady.
At this juncture, Brady said she "was able to really gain more confidence in myself, and started to believe in myself a little bit more, and build off of that."
The American took that lead and ran with it, holding onto her serve with ease through the remainder of the set. At 5-3, strong volleying kept Brady in the game before Kudermetova sent a forehand wide to give the 2020 US Open semifinalist a set point. There, the Russian shot a backhand down the line just a bit wide, and Brady had leveled the match at a set apiece.
Brady finished the encounter with a flourish, reeling off the final five games of the match. The American triumphed in 15 of her 18 first-service points during the decider, and never faced a break point in that final set as she swept to victory.
A deep return by Brady forced a netted reply from Kudermetova to give the American her second break of the set and a 5-1 lead. With Brady serving for the match in the next game, Kudermetova bravely erased the first two match points she faced, but Brady had an ace up her sleeve for the third -- her 14th ace of the day to wrap up the win.