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US Open: Ostapenkos battles two fronts to advance to third round

Rudy Martinez
182   //    31 Aug 2018, 06:34 IST

2018 US Open - Day 4
2018 US Open - Day 4

Jelena Ostapenko rallied back at the right time at the US Open Thursday. A much-needed break for her in between the second and third sets had her back in focus to keep Taylor Townsend at bay in a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 win on Court Five at the Billy Jean King National Tennis Center.

Both players struggled to come up with the win in their opening round matches and would certainly find themselves in a fight for a spot in the round of 32. Townsend's power shots facing against Ostapenko’s aggression was a recipe for a clash of mistakes to mix into it. Despite the ability to hit hard, accuracy was a full skill that the American was missing.

The same went for the Latvian who put too much on the ball during her returns that kept her from winning easy points. With one looking to continue her personal best and the other trying to repeat last year’s result, the idea of having their game together would determine who could command a lead and keep it.

She got out to 40-15 on Townsend but got into trouble as the American swung the score to deuce before winning the break. Alongside the great start, Townsend held off a break back from Ostapenko to get out front on the board. The 12th seed served tough to contain a service hold in the third in hopes to get in an offensive standpoint. Her success in the third stemmed to levelling the score at two-all due to a warm-up of the forehand.

Townsend was aware of the differences in her opponents’ tactics and made sure to jump back ahead on the score quick. She made her mark in the fifth forcing deuce that spanned four breaks by the time ten minutes had elapsed, the American achieved the lead. Very little was taken from Townsend's energy that she gained another break to lead by more than half. Ostapenko wouldn’t let her get another in the seventh making an important hold stick.

It was going to take more than her efforts to keep the American back as the two-game deficit return with the 22-year-old playing for the set. Ostapenko swung big in the ninth making sure her best shots gave her the win to keep the set alive. It wouldn’t be enough as Townsend was on a mission to use her strengths and get across the line which was done in 41 minutes. She had 72 per cent of points won from the first serve and 71 from the second that took its toll on Ostapenko who had 19 errors and a second serve under 30 per cent.

Knowing she had to make a big difference coming into the second, Ostapenko fought back Townsend to contain her service. She tried to get serious with redirecting Townsend left and right but erred enough to give Townsend the hold she needed. They remained on serve through five before Ostapenko made a serious push to break Townsend.

After a fight on the breaks of deuce, the Latvian accomplished her mission to open up a lead for herself and make a third set possible. The American was still at a highly competitive level but couldn’t stop the momentum the 12th seed was running with. With the three-game winning streak in hand, Ostapenko went for the set in the eighth but ran into trouble letting Townsend in to secure her service hold.

With two more chances to bring the set to a close, the world number 12 made good to defend herself in the ninth to level the match with a victory that ended 41 minutes. Her improvement on getting first serve points was essential to getting a chance for a decider. Though the second serve didn’t make a massive turnaround she got it up enough to brush off the problems and focus on the third with a ten-minute mandatory break.

When the third set began, Ostapenko pushed herself to dictate a lead quick before Townsend got to speed. She was up 2-0 before the 22-year-old got on the board with a key hold going forward. The winners were coming up big for the Latvian who used her focus to create another step in the right direction. She got into trouble against Townsend’s attack that had her at 40-0. The 12th seed got out of trouble putting her opponent out of the way to force deuce. She made the fourth game count with a 3-1 lead but still had Townsend trailing by one after her service hold in the fifth.

The American took a medical timeout for an issue with her foot before getting into the sixth where she looked to even the score with Ostapenko. With a lot of effort on her part, the 22-year-old got the win followed by the approval of the crowd in the stands cheering her on. She made it two straight with a service hold in the seventh followed by the Latvian who knew that every point counted. She went the distance in the ninth where getting leverage for the AD point was key to her survival as a seeded player.

After two breaks, she successfully managed the victory that handed her a chance to end the match on her terms. With big hits to get out front on the score, the 21-year-old gave very little to Townsend who saw the end closing in. A pop fly return on Ostapenko’s second match point landed out giving the world number 12 a huge sigh of relief and another day to play on after finishing 2 hours and 19 minutes.

It was not a great day for the Latvian who played against her own devastating gameplay. She overcame 15 double faults in the match that was saved by her first service game and 52 winners that overcame that and her 47 unforced errors. With the notion of not wanting a similar result, Ostapenko would brush up on her response before facing the winner between Sorana Cirstea and Maria Sharapova Saturday.

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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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