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Rome Masters: Ostapenko avoids going three sets against Zhang

Rudy Martinez
216   //    16 May 2018, 02:58 IST

Jelena Ostapenko in action at the BNL Internazionali D'Italia

Jelena Ostapenko put a stop to a late surge from her opponent at the BNL Internazionali D’Italia late Tuesday night. The 20-year-old world number six rallied back to keep her night quick against Shuai Zhang winning 6-2, 7-5 on Corte Centrale at Foro Italico in Rome. It was her first match win since April 26 and one that she was focused on capturing.

Zhang held her opening round match in straight sets despite needing so much effort to win the tiebreak over Mihaela Buzarnescu. While that was a match between two even competitors, facing the sixth seed wouldn’t be close to level pegging. Ostapenko sat on a two-match losing streak exiting early at both Stuttgart and Madrid. With Rome being a big deal before her title defense at Roland Garros, the 20-year-old had a significant amount of pressure on her shoulders to surpass the early rounds of the WTA premier five tournaments.

She came out with an early advantage getting just the start she wanted against Zhang after two decisions. It was quickly 4-0 as Ostapenko dictated the Chinese star until the fifth when Zhang notched her first service hold of the match. She gained a second win trying to get into the set but the Latvian return to her winning ways taking the next two with no mercy. The set was over and done within 27 minutes. Ostapenko had 10 winners during her win but had a dozen unforced errors caused by her own aggression. Despite the small issues, she showed no problems marching forward.

The Latvian made it 2-0 before Zhang awarded herself a serve to love in the third. The Chinese player had another go to her early success but continued to find herself in a whole against Ostapenko after five. The fifth seed had some issues double faulting but errors from Zhang allowed her to contain service in game six to double her margin in the set. Good work in the seventh that saw an ace from Zhang that helped her gain comfort in the set with the score closer.

A break for the 29-year-old leveled the score at four-all before winning on a winner on the line that gave her a 5-4 lead on the stunned Latvian who didn’t believe the umpire’s ruling. In an effort to bring the forehand back, Ostapenko delivered a hold to love against Zhang to save the set from ending. They went into the 11th where the errors began to rack up for the Chinese star who dropped her serve on a double fault giving Ostapenko the chance to serve for the match.

She left nothing to miss in the 12th landing a forehand winner that Zhang swing and missed it. An ace followed by two forehand winners gave the fifth seed a win after one hour and nine minutes. Ostapenko’s final shot was her 27th winner of the match finishing with 77 percent of points on the first serve. She won the last 12 of 13 points in the match with her notion of rushing towards victory. 

With an entry to the third round, the young Latvian will prepare for Thursday’s match between the winner of Johanna Konta of Great Britain and Su Wei Hsieh of China.

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Rudy Martinez
A writer with eight years experience in sportswriting. He specializes in the National Hockey League, WTA Tennis and both summer and winter Olympic sports.
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