Petra Martic had a fight on her hands but found windows of opportunity to move on at the Nature Valley Classic Friday. Jelena Ostapenko made it possible through every set for the Croatian to threaten and take her down 6-7(4), 7-5, 6-1 on Ann Jones Center Court at Edgbaston Priory Tennis Club.
The Latvian and Croatian only met once last year making the quarterfinal very important for both to come into focus. Martic made the round of 16 for the second straight year in hopes that she could have the best grass court run of her career. Ostapenko who struggled to make anything of her season came off a huge upset against Johanna Konta to go for broke in Birmingham and attempt to even the series with her. The 22-year-old needed her aggressive style of tennis to produce many winners and keep the double faults and errors to a minimum.
She started the match with a flying run over Martic that caused her to lose control and give up a break early. Ostapenko comfortably secured her service game in the second before clinching the double break with good ball striking allowing the Croatian only four points in the last 13 points. The Latvian cruised along to take a 4-0 lead over Martic who had yet to find her niche in the set. The fifth was her moment as she served out stronger which is what her coach Sandra Zaniewska told her was a good response though she would need more of it to match the Latvian.
Her moment came with Ostapenko racking up double faults and unforced errors that helped the Croatian climb back and sit a game down after seven. It caused the Latvian to call down her coach to try and reel her game in. It didn’t come to fruition on serve in the eighth that ultimately leveled Martic in the set. She consolidated the break with an important hold that gave her five straight wins and control to play for the set.
With a complete loss of ground, Ostapenko found a way to level back despite committing a ninth double fault. A net front winner allowed her to enact more tennis in the set but faced a resurgent opponent. The 22 year old battled against the serve of Martic to overtake with two break points and take the 6-5 lead. Bringing an end to the set on her terms was not what Martic wanted to occur and assured that with errors on the Ostapenko forehand to gain the break forcing a tiebreak.
Nerves played a role in Martic’s end that gave Ostapenko a break ahead to take a 4-1 stance showing good court positioning and well timed shots. Martic cut her opponent’s lead in half before the short break. When they returned, the Croatian got within one but saw Ostapenko rally to 5-3. She refused to let her gain more than a point and notched the ninth point of the tiebreak in response. Playing the next rally beautifully handed the Latvian set point at 6-4 which came on a forehand error from Martic ending a very challenging set in 53 minutes.
Krisjanis Stabins was called down during the break to assess what she could do to try and hold Martic back in the second set and limit her mistakes. She had nine double faults and 29 unforced errors that clearly showed in Martic’s comeback but the double digit winners were enough to save her and increase her focus to be a set up.
Ostapenko came into the second with another strong start where she consolidated the hold of serve with a break of the Croatian. She kept the run going with another hold before a fight for the double break ensued with Martic trying to fend off the Latvian. They went to four breaks where Martic had plenty of chances to hold serve but let it go on errors to give Ostapenko the only opportunity needed to stand up at 4-0.
When it looked like her hard work would produce a possible shutout, the 28 year old rallied to break back and consolidate it with a hold in the sixth. Ostapenko refused to see another set get out of hand and held in the seventh to go for the match on Martic’s service. The world number 25 denied her that opportunity and to add more tension made it 5-4 with a break in hand. It looked to be a final performance from the Croatian as she handed the 22 year old two match points but somehow saved both to force deuce.
She went on to save a total of five before gaining an AD point to take the set further once again. Martic was on a tear winning the last four straight to earn a chance to force a decider on serve. A shutout was a perfect way to end the second set for the 28 year old as she opened the door to try and make a difference with Ostapenko on the ropes after 61 minutes.
The Latvian began the third set with a good hold but as soon as Martic got into gear, she put the heat on high to grill her opponent. It gave her a break in the third as the Latvian became furious being called on foot faults that led to Martic’s push. She had the 22 year old right where she wanted breezing through her service games with a double break in her grasp.
With Ostapenko out of sorts, she served to the Croatian for the match giving into the errors but saved it with a lob to force deuce. Despite the save of match point, Martic scored on a smashed return before closing things out with Ostapenko hitting one into the net ending 2 hours and 22 minutes. While Martic outscored the competition by 15 points, keeping the problems low was one of the keys to being a stronger player. Ostapenko ended the day with 20 double faults that was in way good enough to come out a winner.
While she tries to figure out a way to stop the damage from occurring on serve, the 28 year old moved into Saturday’s semifinal facing the winner between Yulia Putintseva and Julia Goerges.Published 21 Jun 2019, 20:58 IST