Familiar foes met again in the second round of Wimbledon as two of last week's best matches at the Viking International in Eastbourne were reprised - with the same happy outcomes for two leading Latvians.
Jelena Ostapenko got the upper hand over No.31 seed Daria Kasatkina 6-1, 3-6, 8-6 in one hour and 46 minutes, having also defeated her erstwhile junior rival 1-6, 7-5, 6-2 in the Eastbourne quarterfinals en route to the title. This time, Kasatkina served for the match twice, only to be denied by irresistible aggression from Ostapenko.
Earlier, Anastasija Sevastova recovered from a rough start to deny Marta Kostyuk 1-6, 6-4, 6-3, a week after stopping the teenager 6-1, 6-7(6), 6-4 in the first round of Eastbourne. The result puts the World No.56 into the third round at SW19 for the first time in her career - a stage she has now reached at every major.
Ostapenko, who famously hit 54 winners and 54 unforced errors to win the 2017 Roland Garros final over Simona Halep, emerged today with another perfect balance of 48 winners and 48 unforced errors. But the numbers only tell the fraction of the rollercoaster match's story.
World No.34 Ostapenko raced out of the blocks, dominating Kasatkina in a 22-minute opening set. The Russian committed 11 unforced errors, including four double faults, and rarely got her game going. Ostapenko, by contrast, saved her boldest shots for the biggest points: a searing drive volley to go up 4-1, a vicious return winner for 5-1.
But a marvellous lob in the second game of set two en route to capturing Ostapenko's serve for the first time enabled Kasatkina to gain a foothold in the contest. It didn't seem as though it would be enough: Ostapenko, still walking on water, pulled off two clean return winners to break back, two forehand winners from defensive positions to hold for 2-2 and three consecutive return winners to move up 3-2. Even her Hawkeye challenges, long a source of strife for the 24-year-old, were correct.
But just when it seemed Ostapenko could do no wrong, her purple patch came to an end. Suddenly error-strewn, she dropped five games in a row to lose the second set and fall behind a break in the third.
The decider was tense and unpredictable. It opened with six straight service breaks, of which there would ultimately be 11 across its 14 games, and was ultimately decided by a handful of points.
The Ostapenko tightrope, stretched to its limit by Kasatkina's determined defence, seemed to have frayed too much when a double fault and two forehand errors put her down 5-4. But serving for the match, Kasatkina coughed up a double fault of her own at 30-30 - and Ostapenko stayed alive with a bullet backhand down the line.
Kasatkina had another chance to serve out the win at 6-5, and led 30-0 - but at 30-30, the former World No.10 sent a forehand sitter wide. Handed another lifeline, Ostapenko found another winner, this time on the forehand wing, and this time had enough momentum to surge across the finishing line.
Ostapenko's seven-match winning streak puts her into the third round of Wimbledon in six appearances, and is one shy of the career-best eight in a row she set twice in 2017. She next faces Ajla Tomljanovic, who took out Alizé Cornet 6-4, 0-6, 6-3 in a two-hour, seven-minute seesaw contest.
Earlier, Sevastova had played the reverse role against Kostyuk. Like Kasatkina, the 31-year-old had found herself shut out of a match by her opponent's aggressive tennis. Kostyuk pulled off highlight after highlight in a stellar opening set: a dropshot return, a reflex half-volley winner, crazy sidespin that outfoxed even slice expert Sevastova.
Former US Open semifinalist Sevastova is known for her creative shotmaking, but she went back to basics to essay the comeback. Specifically, Sevastova improved the efficacy of her serve. In the first set, she had landed 52% of her first serves, and won just one of the 11 points behind her second.
Both those numbers went up as the match went on. Sevastova's first serve percentage was 64% in the second set, and 57% in the third. Even more crucially, she won 19 out of 27 second-serve points in the remainder of the contest.
Kostyuk still had moments of magic to wow the Court No.4 crowd, and seemed to have wrested the momentum back when she pulled off a remarkable dropshot-lob combination to break Sevastova back for 3-4 in the second set. But serving at 4-5, the Ukrainian threw in several cheap errors to let her opponent off the hook.
The pattern repeated in the decider: Sevastova gained an early break, but wobbled to concede it midway through. But this time it was her turn to come up with the goods, regaining the break with an exquisite counterdrop and a bold forehand winner, and ultimately serving out the win on her third match point as Kostyuk sent a forehand long.
Sevastova will next face Roland Garros champion and No.14 seed Barbora Krejcikova as she bids to complete her career set of second-week appearances at every Grand Slam.
Wildcard Raducanu rises to occasion with Vondrousova win
Early evening play saw 18-year-old wildcard Emma Raducanu thrill the Court No.12 crowd with a superb 6-2, 6-4 upset of former Roland Garros finalist Marketa Vondrousova in one hour and 12 minutes.
Raducanu has been touted as one of the best British prospects for some years, but had been an unknown quantity coming into this grass season. She had not played in 16 months, since the Covid-19 shutdown, until making her WTA main draw debut in Nottingham three weeks ago.
"To go abroad, we weren't quite comfortable with the Covid situation," Raducanu had explained after her first-round win over Vitalia Diatchenko. "Also, in the meantime I had my final A-level examinations in April, so I was actually sitting for an exam two months ago."
Raducanu's original qualifying wildcard for The Championships had been upgraded to a main draw pass after she defeated Storm Sanders and Timea Babos to reach the Nottingham ITF W100 quarterfinals two weeks ago, and she backed up that decision in brilliant style to score a career-best win over Vondrousova.
Flat, hard hitting off both wings put Raducanu on the front foot in the majority of the baseline exchanges, but some impressive speed also enabled her to counter Vondrousova's renowned dropshot.
The result was also an impressive display of fortitude. After getting overpowered in the first set, Vondrousova seemed to have righted the ship to take a 3-0 lead in the second. But Raducanu battled through two multi-deuce holds bookending a break back to love to level at 3-3.
At 4-4, 30-30, it was Vondrousova who cracked, offering up a double fault and netted forehand. Raducanu made no mistake serving for the match, firing a forehand down the line winner and a pair of unreturnable serves to set a third-round date against Sorana Cirstea.