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Ostapenko eases into Linz final; Alexandrova outlasts Vekic in three hours

Ostapenko eases into Linz final; Alexandrova outlasts Vekic in three hours

Two former Upper Austria Ladies Linz runners-up, Jelena Ostapenko and Ekaterina Alexandrova, will face each other for the WTA 500 title on Sunday after notching semifinal wins on Saturday.

No.1 seed Ostapenko, the 2017 Roland Garros champion, made smooth passage into the Linz final with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over 2021 Roland Garros finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

Earlier, No.2 seed Alexandrova had to battle to reach the final, squeaking past No.3 seed Donna Vekic 5-7, 7-6(4), 7-6(6) in a grueling 3-hour and 6-minute semifinal.

Photos: All of 2024’s three-hour matches

Ostapenko and Alexandrova have met nine times in their professional careers, with Alexandrova holding a slim 5-4 lead in their rivalry. However, Ostapenko has already defeated Alexandrova this season in the Adelaide semifinals.

Ostapenko, the 2019 Linz finalist, needed only 1 hour and 13 minutes to grab her fifth win over Pavlyuchenkova in their six career meetings on the Hologic WTA Tour. Ostapenko was the more dominant of the two power-hitters, with 34 winners to just 10 from Pavlyuchenkova.

“I was very happy with the way I was serving,” Ostapenko said, having finished the match with back-to-back service winners. “I expected a tough match, and I knew it was going to be hard. [Pavlyuchenkova is] a great player and she’s been playing very well recently.”

Latvia’s Ostapenko was pressed on serve early in the affair, facing seven break points during the first five games of the match. But Ostapenko fended each of those chances off, and she was able to romp through the opening set, and, in turn, the match.

Ostapenko is already into her second final this year, having won the Adelaide title last month, with the aforementioned win over Alexandrova en route. Ostapenko’s win-loss record for 2024 now stands at a sparking 12-2, and she is a win away from her eighth career title.

In the day’s opener, Alexandrova was a set and a break down, and she also trailed 5-1 in the third-set tiebreak before prevailing. Alexandrova returns to the Linz championship match, having made her first career WTA singles final at the 2018 edition of this tournament.

Alexandrova fired 51 winners in the semifinal showdown, including 12 aces, to level her head-to-head with Vekic at two wins apiece. The 29-year-old is now one victory away from her fifth WTA singles title.

“For me, tiebreaks, we have a hard relationship, especially in the last set,” Alexandrova said with a laugh. “Even when it’s 1-5 and she was up with the break, I just still continued playing every single point, no matter what. The most valuable thing for me from this match — yes, it’s amazing to be in the final — but [that I] can still win after that moment, it’s just amazing.”

Vekic won a 58-minute first set, and she was twice up a break in the second set. However, Alexandrova pulled back on serve at 4-4 with a winning backhand drive volley, and she saved three break points at 5-5 en route to a second-set tiebreak.

In the first tiebreak of the day, Alexandrova slammed an ace to reach triple set point at 6-3. Vekic saved the first set point with a winning drop shot, but she fired a backhand wide on the second, and the match was dead even at one set all after just over two hours of play.

In the third set, it was Vekic’s turn to come back from a break down on two separate occasions, as the pair moved into a decisive final-set tiebreak. Vekic did grab the 5-1 lead in this breaker, helped along by an Alexandrova double fault on that point.

But Alexandrova’s big hitting let her rebound, and she garnered her first match point at 6-5. Vekic saved that chance with a forehand winner, but Alexandrova notched another match point at 7-6. On that chance, Alexandrova hit one last unreturned serve, sealing victory.