No.7 seed Jelena Ostapenko will meet No.2 seed Anett Kontaveit in the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy semifinals after they each prevailed in tricky quarterfinal meetings on Friday.
Ostapenko of Latvia needed a grueling two hours and 27 minutes to stave off a stern challenge from World No.71 Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus, eventually prevailing 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-3.
Fast facts: 2017 Roland Garros champion Ostapenko had won all three of her previous matches against Sasnovich, including wins at Wimbledon in 2017 and 2018. Coming into St. Petersburg, Ostapenko had only lost to Top 10 players this year: Paula Badosa in Sydney and Barbora Krejcikova at the Australian Open.
But Sasnovich fought valiantly as she attempted to collect another victory during a resurgent start to 2022. The former World No.30 has already reached a final this season at Melbourne Summer Set 2 (losing to Amanda Anisimova), and came into the quarterfinals 2-0 against seeded players this year.
In the end, it was Ostapenko who came out on top in a hard-hitting affair, saving 16 of the whopping 21 break points she faced. Ostapenko had a much sturdier break point conversion rate, clinching six of her nine to eke out the lengthy victory.
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Match moments: Sasnovich mirrored Ostapenko’s power in the first set, with 29 winners from Sasnovich outpacing Ostapenko’s 26. Sasnovich came back from an early break down and saved a set point at 6-5 with a sterling backhand winner, but Ostapenko used a strong forehand to garner three more set points at 6-3 in the tiebreak. Ostapenko converted her fourth set point with a backhand winner.
Ostapenko was up a break in the second set as well, holding another 4-2 lead, but Sasnovich suddenly went on a tear while the unforced error and double fault counts rose from Ostapenko. Bolstered by sturdy service returns, Sasnovich claimed 18 of the last 25 points of the set, collecting four games in a row to swipe the second set and tie up the clash.
In the final set, Ostapenko had to fend off six break points in a protracted game before holding for 1-1, and the Latvian later saw another break lead slip away as Sasnovich cracked winners to level the set at 3-3.
But Ostapenko persevered, breaking Sasnovich again for 4-3, then fending off three more break points in the following game with powerful ballstriking to reach 5-3. Ostapenko sealed victory from there, using an error-forcing return to grab her first match point, where Sasnovich hit her tenth double fault of the day.
🔥 18 IN A ROW!! 🔥@AnettKontaveit_ becomes the first player since Justine Henin in 2010 to win 18 consecutive matches indoors!— wta (@WTA) February 11, 2022
The No.2 seed will next face Ostapenko for a place in the #FormulaTX final 🔜 pic.twitter.com/aG1OLzCDoG
Kontaveit blasts past Bencic, wins 18th straight match indoors
Kontaveit of Estonia had a slightly easier time defeating No.5 seed and reigning Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, grabbing a 7-6(7), 6-2 win in an hour and 42 minutes.
"It was a very competitive match today," said Kontaveit. "I think the momentum changed quite a few times in the first set, but I was very happy with the way I fought, and no matter the score I was trying to stay the same and keep a positive mindset. I think that was the key for me today."
With her victory over 24th-ranked Bencic, World No.9 Kontaveit continues her tremendous winning streak at indoor events. Kontaveit has now won 18 matches in a row indoors, which includes title runs at Ostrava, Moscow, and Cluj-Napoca.
Kontaveit claimed 20 of Bencic's 29 second-service points, propelling her to five breaks of serve in the tilt. Kontaveit improved to 3-1 over 2016 St. Petersburg runner-up Bencic with the quarterfinal win.
A topsy-turvy opening set saw Kontaveit lose an early 3-0 advantage, as Bencic reeled off five games in a row to notch a 5-3 lead. Bencic then served for the set at 5-4, but failed to hold as Kontaveit struck back to reclaim parity.
The duo moved into the tiebreak, where a beautiful backhand gave Bencic the first crack at set points at 6-4. But a double fault and a missed return by Bencic allowed Kontaveit back level at 6-6, and the Estonian claimed her own set point with a backhand winner for 7-6.
Highlights: Kontaveit def. Bencic
Bencic saved that chance with a winning volley, but a strong service return by Kontaveit gave the No.2 seed her second set point at 8-7. Kontaveit converted that chance after 60 minutes of play once a Bencic return flew long.
The second set was more straightforward as Kontaveit raced out to a commanding 4-0 lead. Once again, Bencic made a charge as she clawed one break back for 4-2, but Kontaveit recovered with a quick break for 5-2, then served out the match with ease.
Looking forward to the semifinal, Kontaveit has won two of her three previous meetings with Ostapenko. However, Ostapenko triumphed in their most recent meeting when she dispatched Kontaveit in straight sets to win the Eastbourne final last summer.
"Jelena, she’s been playing really well," said Kontaveit. "She plays very aggressive, so I’ll have to be ready for that, and just enjoy myself out there and do the best that I can. Definitely I’ll be ready for a very tough match, and I’ll be tough as well."