An All-Baltic Final Comes To Eastbourne

Anett Kontaveit (photo: @WTA/Twitter)

EASTBOURNE/WASHINGTON, June 26, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Saturday’s WTA 500-series Viking International women’s singles title match will have a Baltic feel to it because both finalists are from that region of the world – wild card Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia and unseeded Anett Kontaveit of Estonia.

During Friday’s semifinal round, which began two-and-a-half hours late due to earlier rainfall, the No. 27 Kontaveit made short work of her match with 75th-ranked qualifier Camila Giorgi after the Italian retired with a left thigh injury while trailing 5-4 after just 46 minutes. Kontaveit already had struck three aces and hit 13 winners while breaking Giorgi once during their abbreviated semifinal.

Kontaveit was surprised by the sudden retirement by Giorgi. She said: “I had just lost my serve and we were back on serve, and I was ready to play, again. I really didn’t see this coming. I’m very sorry [Camila] had to retire. It’s never nice to win like that. I hope she’s better for Wimbledon.”

Kontaveit said she’s enjoyed her Wimbledon prep week playing on the grass in the South Coast of England. “I’ve really enjoyed myself out here. I’ve had some really good wins. I feel like I’m playing good tennis – the grass is special here. I’m really having a good time.”

In the other match, the No. 43 Ostapenko powered her way to a 6-4, 6-1 victory over No. 21 Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, who was hampered by back problems during their one hour and 32-minute semifinal. She dictated play throughout much of the match and knew what it took to win and reach her ninth career final and fifth at the WTA 500 level or higher.

“I knew she was serving well, so I needed to return well today,” said Ostapenko during an on-court interview after her victory. She hit 38 winners and capitalized on six breaks of Rybakina’s serve. “I wanted to play well from the beginning. I think I played really well and on a high level – and that’s why I think I won.”

• The top two seeded teams in the women’s doubles draw have advanced to Saturday’s final. No. 1 seeds Nicole Melichar of the United States and Demi Schuurs of the Netherlands defeated No. 4 seeds Latisha Chan and Chan Hao-Ching, both of Taiwan, 7-6 (1), 4-6, 10-5 to reach the title match against No. 2 seeds Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara, both of Japan. Aoyama and Shibahara beat unseeded Lyudmyla Kichenok of Ukraine and Makoto Ninomiya of Japan, 7-5, 6-1.

De Minaur and Sonego reach Eastbourne men’s final

Saturday’s ATP 250 Viking International men’s singles final will feature two of the young stars of the ATP in No. 2 seed Alex de Minaur of Australia and No. 3 seed Lorenzo Sonego of Italy.

The 22-year-old de Minaur, ranked 18th, advanced with a 6-3, 7-6 (2) win over 77th-ranked lucky loser Soonwoo Kwon of South Korea to keep his hopes alive for a fifth career ATP Tour title and first on grass.

“I am very happy to be playing in another final,” de Minaur said after his win Friday. “I am playing some great tennis on the grass. I am really enjoying myself out there and hopefully I can play well tomorrow and take it home.

“I think for me, the clay season is a long stint, so I was looking forward to the grass season. I have gained confidence from every match I have won, and I have had a lot of matches under my belt. All these things help each other.”

In the other semifinal, Sonego, 26, ended the run of Australian lucky loser Max Purcell, 6-1, 3-6, 6-1, to reach his second career grass final (following Antalya in 2019) and fourth final overall – including his second of 2021.

A titlist at the Sardegna Open in April, the 27th-ranked Sonego hit five aces against No. 283 Purcell and won 80 percent (41 of 51) of his first serves. He converted all four of his break-point opportunities and outpointed the Aussie 80-57.

“I am really happy because this is my second final on grass and I like the conditions here because I can go to the net,” Sonego said during his post-match interview. “I am serving well, I am more offensive, and I want to do the same tomorrow.

“With only three tournaments on grass, it is not easy to adapt. But my tennis is good for this surface because I serve well and if I return better, I can have a great tournament each week.”

Mektic and Pavic win Eastbourne men’s doubles title

No. 1 seeds Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic, both of Croatia, won their seventh ATP Tour doubles title of 2021 Friday with their 63-minute 6-4, 6-3 victory over No. 3 seeds Rajeev Ram of the United States and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain.

With their latest victory, the Croatians are 42-6 in their first year together. Their seven titles include three at the ATP Masters 1000 level, in Miami, Monte-Carlo and Rome. Ram and Salisbury are now 21-11.

“I am very happy with the title here after everything that has happened recently, getting ill in Paris,” Mektic said. “We are very happy with the way we came back, very fast, very quick. We found good form [this week.]”

Added Pavic: “I think we played an excellent match. We have played them three times and they are always tough matches. It goes back to a few points. We saved a couple of break points and they didn’t.”

Wimbledon qualifying: Osorio Serrano, Konjuh and Swan make the grade

On the fourth and final day of Wimbledon qualifying at Roehampton, there were 10 women’s third-round matches, each with an all-or-nothing outcome hanging in the balance. For the winners, it meant advancing to be part of the 128-play main draw for the ladies’ singles competition. For those who came up short, there’s always next year.

Among the winners were No. 1 seed Maria Camila Osorio Serrano of Colombia, ranked 94th, who rallied from a set down to beat No. 148 Nuria Parrizas-Diaz of Spain, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2. Osorio Serrano has now qualified for her second straight major after making it through French Open qualifying in Paris. Her first-round opponent in the Wimbledon main draw will be fellow qualifier No. 111 Anna Kalinskaya of Russia.

Also advancing were No. 129 Ana Konjuh of Croatia, who defeated No. 103 Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2; and Great Britain’s Katie Swan, ranked No. 290, who was a 6-0, 6-4 winner over No. 210 Arina Rodionova of Australia.

Konjuh, 23, qualified for Wimbledon as a 16-year-old in 2014 and reached the third round, becoming the youngest since Jelena Dokic in 1999. She will play No. 54 Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain in her first-round match.

Swan became the first British woman to qualify for Wimbledon in 20 years. “Oh, my gosh, I can’t even believe it right now. I can’t tell you how happy I am,” Swan, 22, said in an interview with the BBC. “I’m very excited.” Her reward? She gets to play No. 23 seed Madison Keys of the United States in the first round.

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