Cori Gauff made WTA history at the Upper Austria Linz Ladies Open on Sunday as she beat Jelena Ostapenko 6-3, 1-6, 6-2 to capture her first WTA career title. The American became the youngest to win a championship this season and the first 15-year-old to do so since Tamira Paszek in 2006.
Gauff and Ostapenko were facing off for the first time with one eyeing history and the other looking to end a personal drought. The Latvian had pushed herself hard in the semis to overcome a deficit against Ekaterina Alexandrova; winning the second set tiebreak allowed her to go on and win the match in the third.
That was the first time Ostapenko had to go the distance in the tournament, while the young American was yet to drop a set in the competition. That status quo was maintained by the time the first set of the final got over.
Gauff nearly went behind in the very first game but saved a break point to hold. She then broke Ostapenko and consolidated for a 3-0 lead.
A couple of holds from Ostapenko cut the American’s lead in half, but time was running out for her. Serving for the set at 5-3, the 15-year-old made a nervy double fault to start. But she turned things around by drawing an error from the Latvian and following it up with a second ace for two set points.
Holding her position on the court, the 15-year-old put an end to the first set in 32 minutes by pressuring Ostapenko to err on returns.
Knowing that she had to make a statement in the second, the Latvian saved a break point in early on before holding. She then broke Gauff to love in the second game, only to see the American return the favor in the third. But Ostapenko finally pulled ahead by breaking at 2-1 and then holding for a 4-1 lead.
Gauff’s father came out during the changeover to try and help his daughter find a way to dig in while the window was open. But her efforts to hold in the sixth were foiled, with the 22-year-old looking determined to take the match to a third set.
The former French Open champion struck an ace out wide to end the second set in 29 minutes. During the set break her coach Marion Bartoli expressed satisfaction at how well she was managing her game.
But just when it looked like the momentum had changed in favor of the Latvian, Gauff came roaring back. After holding comfortably, Gauff broke Ostapenko and forced the 22-year-old to get into an argument with the umpire which in turn earned her a warning for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Ostapenko let her anger get to her head, which caused her to fall behind by three games. That necessitated another conference with her coach; Bartoli gave her a few words of confidence and reminded her to relax.
It didn't help though as Ostapenko continued gifting points to Gauff and got broken again. The 15-year-old then held for a commanding 5-0 lead, sitting just two games away from a maiden title.
Serving to avoid a bagel, Ostapenko almost had the game secured but the American teen forced deuce before gaining championship point. The ensuing rally had several high lobbed shots and finally ended with Gauff sending one long.
A second match point came via a scorching winner, but the Latvian brought it back to deuce with an unanswered down-the-line screamer of her own. The Latvian eventually sealed the service hold, but everyone knew the end was near.
Ostapenko broke Gauff to delay the inevitable, and that caused the teenager to call out her coach in order to help her regain her focus. She started the eighth with a great return, before the 22-year-old made her move all over the court to even the game score.
They then traded points and Gauff reached another break chance for a third championship point. Good awareness on her part made it third time lucky, as she challenged a shot from Ostapenko which Hawkeye confirmed was out.
That ended the match in 1 hour and 40 minutes, and helped Gauff enter the history books.Published 14 Oct 2019, 21:02 IST