SEOUL, South Korea -- After a rain-addled past couple of days, Russia’s Ekaterina Alexandrova finally completed the quarterfinal lineup at the KEB Hana Bank Korea Open on Friday morning with a straight-set upset of No.1 seed and defending champion Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia, 6-3, 6-2.
“I think it was a good match: I played well, and she also played well," Alexandrova told the media, after her win. "I’m just happy it worked out like this.”
The eye-catching display of first-strike tennis between the two big hitters was generally dominated by World No.122 Alexandrova, who claimed the first Top 10 win of her career after 71 minutes, having previously gone 0-3 against players in that echelon, and 0-6 in her career versus the Top 20.
Alexandrova had seven more winners and only one more unforced error than her opponent, and routinely attacked the serve of 2017 Roland Garros champion Ostapenko to break the Latvian five times out of eight break points.
Neither player was particularly effective on their second serves, but World No.10 Ostapenko could only muster up 53 percent of points won on her first serve, while Alexandrova claimed 79 percent of points on her first delivery.
23-year-old Alexandrova must prepare for a quick turnaround, as she will play her quarterfinal match later on Friday. Moreover, the Russian has a challenging opponent waiting for her, as she will face No.6 seed Hsieh Su-wei of Chinese Taipei, who is on a seven-match winning streak which includes winning the Hiroshima title last week.
“We played in the US Open this year in the first round," Alexandrova recalled about their only prior meeting which took place last month, and which Hsieh won in three sets. "It was quite a tough match, so I hope I can fix all the mistakes I made in that match, and try to do my best today.”
“I feel very confident, but kind of tired, so I wish I can play the next match the next day!" Alexandrova exclaimed. "But I hope it’ll be fine.”
After holding in the first game of the match with back-to-back aces, Ostapenko backslid in her next service game, ceding a break to Alexandrova with a double fault. The Russian then survived a break point at 2-1, eventually holding for 3-1 after a flurry of forehand miscues by Ostapenko.
The Latvian pulled level by breaking back for 3-3 after Alexandrova double faulted on break point herself. Ostapenko, however, was unable to hold that momentum for more than a brief moment, as the Russian broke right back with a forehand crosscourt winner on the second break point of a long game, which Ostapenko led 40-15.
Alexandrova had been powering excellent returns off of the Ostapenko second serve throughout the match, and the Latvian was feeling the pressure, opening her service game at 3-5 with consecutive double faults. A wide backhand by Ostapenko gave Alexandrova triple set point, and a screaming crosscourt backhand return winner gave the Russian the break at love for the one-set lead.
Ostapenko let Alexandrova take a 3-1 lead in the second set, when, on break point, the Latvian again hit one of her six double faults. Alexandrova refused to allow Ostapenko back into the set this time around, firing well-timed big serves to get through a tough game and hold for 4-1.
The Russian’s forehand carried her through the latter stages of the match, as she hit a stunning winner from that side to hold for 5-2, and force Ostapenko to serve to keep her title defense alive. Ostapenko quickly fell behind, and watched another Alexandrova forehand winner queue up double match point. The Russian needed just one chance, as a final brilliant backhand return winner ended the tilt.