No.3 seed Jelena Ostapenko's title defence remains on course at the BGL BNP Paribas Luxembourg Open after a 6-1, 7-6(4) defeat of No.7 seed Liudmila Samsonova in the semifinals, though her passage into her 10th career final was not without its complications.
In a battle between two of this year's grass-court champions, the Latvian dominated the match with spectacular play until 6-1, 5-1, but was unable to serve it out twice as World No.48 Samsonova began to mount a comeback. Ultimately, Ostapenko needed all of her focus to clinch the straight-sets win by reeling off six points in a row from 1-4 down in the tiebreak.
Ostapenko, who lifted her third career trophy at Luxembourg 2019, now owns a 9-0 winning streak at the tournament. The result puts the World No.30 into her second final of the year after her Eastbourne title run in June, and she will bid for her fifth career title on Sunday against unseeded 18-year-old Clara Tauson.
Stat corner: Both players finished with positive ratios of winners to unforced errors, Ostapenko tallying 25 to 14 and Samsonova 15 to nine. But Ostapenko had the edge on serve, landing 62% of her first deliveries compared to the Russian's 53%. Samsonova's lower number was particularly significant given Ostapenko's eagerness in attacking her second serve: the 22-year-old only won nine points behind it all match, including just one in the first set.
Ostapenko was also sharper on big points, despite her second-set wobble. She saved three break points to hold in the third game of the match, and used that escape as a springboard to rattle off nine games in a row. Samsonova was unable to convert any of her four break points in the first set, while Ostapenko converted each of the four she brought up over the course of the match.
A combination of Ostapenko errors and ferocious Samsonova returns put the latter on the brink of pulling off an unlikely comeback, but at 1-4 down in the tiebreak Ostapenko managed to steady the ship without sacrificing aggression.
Quotable: "At some point I stopped playing my game," said Ostapenko in the on-court interview afterwards. "I missed so many balls and I started to rush. [But the key was] to fight to stay in the match. I played really well in the beginning but I couldn't close it - I had to fight and enjoy it."
Danish teenager Clara Tauson will be Ostapenko's opponent in the BGL BNP Paribas Luxembourg Open final, as the 18-year-old outlasted No.5 seed Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 in the second semifinal of the day.
In a smidge over 2 hours, Tauson gritted through a close third set to beat Olympic silver medalist Vondrousova, the World No.35, in their first meeting.
Tauson, who comes into the event ranked at a career-high World No.70, is now into her second final of the season and of her career. The rising Dane, a former junior World No.1, won her maiden WTA singles title earlier this year in Lyon, also on indoor hardcourts.
The youngest player in this week's draw, Tauson showed off her powerful game in the clash, with 41 winners to just 20 unforced errors. The teen continues her run of recent good form: she is the most recent player to beat US Open champion Emma Raducanu, in the WTA 125 Chicago final, and then pushed World No.1 Ashleigh Barty in a two-set US Open loss.
Key moments: A pair of double faults cost Vondrousova her serve in the opening game, and Tauson used that advantage, and powerful forehands, to sweep to an early 3-1 lead. Vondrousova saved four break points in the next game, then leveled the set at 3-3, but Tauson's forehand gave her another break for 4-3, and she eased to the set from there.
2019 Roland Garros finalist Vondrousova struck back in the second set, firing her lefty forehand down the line to earn a break for 2-0. The Czech cut down her errors throughout the remainder of the set, eventually breaking Tauson again, at love, to tie up the match with ease.
An exchange of breaks in the first two games of the decider was followed by a run of extremely easy holds as neither player budged through 4-4. But in that game, Tauson exhibited more forehand winners and was rewarded with a break for 5-4, before subsequently closing out the match.
Doubles final result: Greet Minnen and Alison van Uytvanck won their second WTA doubles title, as the Belgians dismissed their compatriot Kimberley Zimmermann and New Zealand's Erin Routliffe, 6-3, 6-3, in the BGL BNP Paribas Luxembourg Open final.
The Belgian pair took just 59 minutes to pick up the trophy, which was the first WTA doubles title for each of them since they triumphed as a duo at the very same event three years ago.
Minnen and van Uytvanck never faced a break point in the clash, while converting three of their six break chances, as they swept to victory. The victors won a whopping 83 percent of service points on the day, including seven of their eight second-service points.