Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko picked up the 5th singles title of her career at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Saturday, needing just 64 minutes to outplay Veronika Kudermetova, the World No 31 from Russia, 6-0 6-4.
Today I knew it was going to be a tough match, and I went on the court very focused. I really wanted to win because I love to play in the final, but I hate to lose in the final, so I really wanted to get that title.
“I think my mentality was good today and I was playing well. Jelena Ostapenko
With the likes of Aryna Sabalenka and Barbora Krejcikova, the World No 2 and 3, in the field, Ostapenko was viewed as one of the underdogs, but when all but one of the top seeds were knocked out of contention in the first and second rounds, the Dubai tournament was blown wide open.
Ostapenko dug in her heels and produced some stunning performances, beating 4 Grand Slam champions in consecutive matches in her inspiring run.
It capped off a statement week by the 24-year old from Riga, who took out Sofia Kenin, Iga Swiatek, Petra Kvitova and Simona Halep on her way to the final, having come back from a set down in her 3 of her prior matches.
A smooth attacking performance from the World No 22 rounded off a superb competition, and banked her first title of the year.
“I think I played really well today,” Ostapenko said on court after the win. “In general I’m really happy with the whole week because it was very tough opponents I had to face every round.
“I was fighting until the very last point, I was even down match point against Petra and every match was very tough.
“I was fighting, that was the main thing I was doing, because I had honestly no other choice.
“I’m really happy with the way I was playing all week and I think this way I can gain more confidence.”
Kudermetova also had her fair share of big wins in Dubai this week, dispatching defending champion and two-time major winner Garbiñe Muguruza and two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka on her way to her second final appearance of the season.
Ostapenko broke 3 times in the first set, and although Kudermetova put up a fight in the second with a break in the opening game, the unseeded Latvian drew level in game 4 and then edged ahead in the 8th game only for the Russian to hit back immediately.
The Latvian, though, got the job done with her 3rd break in the very next game.
“Today I knew it was going to be a tough match, and I went on the court very focused,” Ostapenko said. “I really wanted to win because I love to play in the final, but I hate to lose in the final, so I really wanted to get that title.
“I think my mentality was good today and I was playing well.”
Two service breaks for Ostapenko saw the Latvian race to a 5-0 lead inside 17 minutes, and she fired a ruthless return winner to complete the bagel moments later.
The 2017 French Open champion earned herself 3 breaks, won 81 % of her service points and never faced a break point in the opener.
Kudermetova finally got on the board at the start of the second, opening her account with a service break to carve out a 2-0 gap, but the Russian’s lead didn’t last long as Ostapenko continued to punish her with devastating returns, and they were soon on level terms.
Ostapenko claimed a crucial break of serve to inch ahead 5-3, but the Latvian could not close out the victory at the first time of asking, handing the break right back to Kudermetova.
The Russian saved a match point on her serve at 4-5, but it only delayed the inevitable as Ostapenko wrapped up the win on her second opportunity.
Overall, Ostapenko’s fiery game created 16 winners, which outnumbered her 14 unforced errors, while Kudermetova’s 10 winners were outpaced by 18 miscues, and the Russian was broken 6 times.
24-year-old Kudermetova, who is now 1-3 in career finals, will hit her highest ranking on Monday, moving up to 25 in the world.
“I beat a lot of good players this week,” she said. “It was very emotional for me.
“Maybe I was not ready mentally for that final today, but I hope I can take a lesson from that final, and next time I will do better.”
Ostapenko will rise to 13 in the WTA rankings on Monday, and is determined to continue her ascent and go even higher than her previous career-best mark of 5.
Both Ostapenko and Kudermetova also advanced to the doubles final in Dubai, marking the first time two players have squared off in both the singles and doubles title deciders at the same WTA tournament since Lugano in 2018.
Kudermetova exacted a measure of vengeance in the doubles final that followed, as she and Belgium’s Elise Mertens defeated Ukraine’s Lyudmyla Kichenok & Ostapenko, 6-1 6-3, to claim the title.
Kudermetova & Mertens, the No 2 seeds, eased past unseeded Kichenok & Ostapenko in 58 minutes to close out the event.
After needing match tiebreaks to win their first two rounds, Kudermetova & Mertens won their semi-final and final in straight sets.
They broke serve 5 times while only dropping serve once to collect their trophy, winning exactly two-thirds of Kichenok & Ostapenko’s second-service points.
It is the second time Kudermetova & Mertens and have teamed up together to win a title, having claimed the Istanbul title last season.
Dubai marks the15th WTA doubles title of Mertens’ career, while it is the 3rd for Kudermetova.
Mertens is a former WTA Doubles World No 1 who is currently ranked No 4 in the discipline, while Kudermetova sits at No 9 in the doubles rankings.