DOHA, Qatar -- In a rematch of a Doha second-round encounter from last year, Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia obtained revenge over Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania, claiming a 6-1, 4-6, 6-2 win to advance to the second round of the Qatar Total Open on Tuesday.
Ostapenko, the 2016 Doha runner-up, had lost that first meeting between the two players, but the Latvian has now claimed the last two clashes between them after emerging victorious in one hour and 45 minutes. Buzarnescu is still seeking her first win of the 2019 season.
"I remember that match [from last year], and I think I was kind of rushing with my game a lot and I was making a lot of unforced errors," Ostapenko told the press, following her win. "[Today] I think the first set I played really well, but then something changed a little bit. But I managed to win it."
Both risk-taking players had more unforced errors than winners, but Ostapenko was more consistent on the day, as she had two fewer winners than Buzarnescu but 13 fewer unforced errors. The Romanian was undone by 13 double faults, and allowed Ostapenko to have a whopping 20 break points, of which the Latvian converted seven.
2017 French Open champion Ostapenko will now face No.4 seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine in the second round. The Latvian has to be heartened by her 2-0 head-to-head lead over Svitolina.
"I hope the wind is not going to be the same tomorrow as it was today because it was very tough to play," Ostapenko admitted. "Otherwise, I mean, [Svitolina's] a very consistent player. I will have to play on a very high level to beat her, of course."
The first game of the match proved to be a harbinger of the first set as a whole, as Buzarnescu failed to capitalize on a 40-0 lead on her serve. Ostapenko used controlled power to garner three break points in that game, and eventually took the Romanian’s serve with a backhand crosscourt winner.
Ostapenko rolled through the opener from there, as she majestically won all 12 of her service points in the set, and used perfectly placed backhands to break the Romanian twice more. The hard-hitting Latvian had six winners, but more importantly for her, only three unforced errors. By contrast, Buzarnescu had three winners but tripled that amount in unforced errors.
The second set, however, was much more complicated, as Buzarnescu found winning range on her delivery and groundstrokes to pull her way back into the encounter. The Romanian avoided an early pitfall when she saved four break points in her first service game of the set, three of those erased with aces.
Buzarnescu finally got her first break points of the match at 2-2, and she attained a break of service to lead 3-2 as Ostapenko’s errors began to mount. But that just started a run of five straight service breaks, as both players were taking chances on returns but also mixing in miscues.
At 5-4, it seemed as if a sixth straight break was in the offing, but Buzarnescu erased two break points with solid serving to get back to deuce. Two mistimed Ostapenko returns followed, ceding the set to Buzarnescu. Both players had 14 unforced errors in the set, but Buzarnescu out-winnered Ostapenko in that timeframe, by 13 to eight.
Ostapenko, though, was able to reclaim momentum, spurred on by the opening game of the decider, where she sturdily staved off four break points to start off the set successfully. That paid dividends when the Latvian obtained the first break of the set, as Buzarnescu ceded the 3-1 lead when she hit her twelfth double fault of the day on break point.
Ostapenko used fierce forehands to save one final break point and hold for 4-1, then blasted a return winner at 5-2 to garner an initial match point on the Buzarnescu serve. There, a rally forehand by the Romanian flew long, and Ostapenko had booked her spot in the second round and a date with Svitolina.