WTA Finals Singapore 2017, Day 3 Match Review: Venus Williams outlasts Jelena Ostapenko

Straight setters dominated the first two days of this year’s WTA Finals in Singapore – in fact, all four matches saw the player that lost win no more than four games in a set. This all changed on Tuesday and then some with the first match of the day between Venus Williams and Jelena Ostapenko. In an epic encounter lasting three hours and 13 minutes, nearly an hour longer than Monday’s matches combined, Venus prevailed, 7-5 6-7(3) 7-5.

I started watching the match during my lunch break – I was sad when I had to stop with Ostapenko leading *4-3 in the first set because it was an enjoyable start. Thanks to WTA TV On Demand, I was able to catch up this evening. Ostapenko was inconsistent through the first set with flashes of pure brilliance – she had success drilling the ball down the middle to open up angles went hugeee on the return. Ostapenko served for the first set at *5-4 where she was broken to love. Williams landed some deep returns in court but ultimately, it was four errors from Ostapenko.

Williams would reel off four straight games to take the opener with gritty defence and her experience, much like their Wimbledon clash, coming to the fore as Ostapenko’s firs serve rather deserted her in a sea of unforced errors. The Latvian player was furious at the end of her set and her coach took a battering.

There wasn’t a great deal of momentum in this match. While Williams kept things pretty steady, Ostapenko pulled the strings, alternating through periods of excellent and erratic play. Williams had the early break in the second set. Ostapenko pegged the American straight back with a fling of forehand winners. Williams levelled up again and then stayed ahead on serve, managing to hit some decent serves in the pressure moments.

Credit to Ostapenko who also managed to hold her nerve in the key moments. Serving at *4-5, Ostapenko was forced to save a match point to keep the contest alive. She landed a second serve and kept her groundstrokes in court with Williams going into the net.

Ostapenko held serve to 5-5 and then broke, thanks to another dishy return winner. Just like the first set, Ostapenko was not able to serve it out. This time, it was more about Williams who stepped it up in a superb return game with bundles of intensity. Into a second set tiebreak and after a close start, somewhat surprisingly, it was Williams who fell away with a double fault and errors off the backhand wing.

In the first deciding set of the tournament so far, Ostapenko recovered a *0-40 deficit and saved five break points to hold her first service game. Williams responded emphatically with a hold to love. Ostapenko was barely at 50% first serves in through the first two sets and her serve disintegrated in the third set with her first serve dropping to 39% and double faults raining down.

From 1-1, Ostapenko lost her serve on three consecutive occasions. However, her return game remained lethal and each time, she levelled up the score with moments of absolute magic. A brilliant backhand down-the-line helped Ostapenko to break back to 4-4 in the decider. It was a pretty tense decider and both were clearly feeling it – I haven’t seen that emotion from Williams in a long time after she failed to consolidate the breaks of serve, while Ostapenko became increasingly frustrated and close to tears with her serving woes.

The third set was a little scrappy but still a must-watch which ended with a pair of dramatic and gripping Ostapenko service games. Ostapenko somehow recovered a *0-40 hole at *4-4 when her serve magically clicked for a few points to bag a lucrative hold, also thanks to some errors from Williams. As touched on earlier, the way that Williams reacts after missed opportunities is inspired – serving to stay in the match, Williams held to 15.

Another long game on Ostapenko’s serve at *5-5 panned out as she threw the kitchen sink to stay afloat. An outrageously audacious backhand winner down-the-line helped her save a break point. It wasn’t enough though as Williams threw caution to the wind and went all in, rushing to the net  and taking second serves super early with aggressive strikes. The latter was very successful and helped score the break.

Williams served out the match with another hold to 15 in one of her best service games of the entire match. Hats off to that finish by Venus…

Match Stats:

Venus Williams – 62% 1st serves in, 61% of 1st serve points won, 33% of 2nd serve points won, 26 winner and 29 unforced errors

Jelena Ostapenko – 46% 1st serves in, 51% of 1st serve points won, 40% of 2nd serve points won, 48 winner and 40 unforced errors

Match Highlights:

Analysis:

While not the best quality match we’ve seen all year, this was one hell of an entertaining ride. Williams is just so damn impressive and it was experience and maturity that once again prevailed. Williams served well in the majority of key moments, defended valiantly from the baseline, but then had the confidence and assuredness to really go for it at the end of the match and put Ostapenko’s crumbling second serve under pressure.

Ostapenko’s serve was an absolute shocker. Again, it’s something that is surely top of the list on things to work on in the off-season. Still, she showed a lot of heart and was very impressive in how she managed to reset, many times with some outrageous shotmaking in the return games. She was still very close to winning that decider and with 39% (!) of first serves in. If she can shore up that serve then she could be unstoppable.

While happy for Williams, i’m kind of bummed to see Ostapenko officially now out of the tournament. I find her really exciting to watch and I don’t think i’m ever going to get bored of seeing her wallop the ball – her groundstrokes 🔥.

It was a match that went against a few streaks – Williams was 11-1 in tiebreaks this year and this was the first one she had lost since the Australian Open! Furthermore, Ostapenko’s three set record was 21-3 since Charleston heading into this tournament. This was her first three set loss since Toronto.

Press Conferences:

Jeepers… how short was that andddd after a win?! 😂

Even after a tough loss, Ostapenko seemed able to reflect on the positives of the match.

I spent my entire evening watching Williams-Ostapenko and then GBBO so I haven’t had time to catch up with the second match where Karolina Pliskova sealed her place in the semi-finals with a routine 6-2 6-2 win over Garbiñe Muguruza. This now means that second place in the white group will be decided by a straight shootout between Venus and Garbiñe.

Williams and Muguruza haven’t played since the Wimbledon final – Williams won their three pre-2017 matches, while Muguruza has won both 2017 encounters including a 7-5 6-0 triumph in the third Slam final of the year. The first set was a feast of aggressive tennis with Muguruza saving set points to win the opener before rolling through the second set.

I’d probably give the edge to Muguruza’s relentlessness on this court, even after her one-sided loss to Pliskova. It will be a tough ask for Williams to follow up that thrilling win over Ostapenko but no doubt she will give it some welly.

Please note – my work has a charity bake sale on Thursday so i’m unlikely to have time for a post tomorrow night. I’m going for my tried-and-tested Millionaire’s Shortbread so i’m hoping things will go to plan 🤞🤞🤞 .

Feature photo for this post by mootennis.com

28 thoughts on “WTA Finals Singapore 2017, Day 3 Match Review: Venus Williams outlasts Jelena Ostapenko

  1. Ostapenko vs Pliskova on Thursday. Ost is out of the tournament and Plis is in the semi. The match apparently means nothing, so how will the player mentally approach the match. Will the match be a hit and giggle exhibition or will the players take the match seriously.

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    • Even the global broadcast coverage of this showpiece Women’s Year End event seems quite lack-lustre.
      They will both get paid for turning up if that counts for anything, but Pliskova doesn’t need to get out of second gear. She needs to look ahead. Does Jelena need to acquit herself in any form given her last two results? Maybe. But, will she? I think the her first experience of being here should be enough to set her up for later years. I think it will be a little boost psychologically if she beats an even subpar Karolina here.

      lol..I’m not looking forward to the match though, just hope they share warm pleasantries at the end, maybe a kiss on the cheeks, and Jelena packs her stuff with Pliskova moving on.

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      • The winner gets an extra 125 ranking points which could prove the difference between two or even three ranking places.

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  2. While there were some incredible winners and entertaining rallies, the quality of serving and returning (or lack thereof) really stopped the match being anything but a mess for me. The double faults got ridiculous and i wouldn’t say it was warranted because neither were going for their second serves and neither play was attacking the second serve with as much conviction as they could have done. Ostapenko sent some second serves that were barely over 100kph and in the centre of the box…

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  3. “Ostapenko was inconsistent through the first set with flashes of pure brilliance”

    That unfortunately sums up well how she often performs early in a match. I say that with respect, as she’s my favourite player. Although I didn’t see the match (just the clips above), I was disappointed she didn’t ultimately get to make it past the noise and power of V.Williams.

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  4. Could someone tell me please how it is that Ost is out of the tournament whereas Elina is still in with a chance of qualifying, when both players are in the same position of having lost both matches they’ve played? Is it taken on the number of games or sets the players have won?

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    • Doing the math, Pliskova has two wins, qualitatively, straight wins at that. Garbine and Venus now each have a win. There is no way, either one of the players, Garbine or Venus will not get a second win should they come up on top. So, one of them will get two wins and Jelena, utmost can only get 1 win if she beats Pliskova. The Arithmetic is her downfall. Insurmountable.

      All I can say for Svitolina is I’m disappointed by her play. But cant say I’m surprised, this is a mini Slam Grande.

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      • True (and thanks for answering), but all of what you said about Jelena is true of Elina as well. Both she and Jelena have lost two matches out of two, and won one set against four lost; and yet Elina’s still in the competition with a chance of qualifying whereas Jelena’s been eliminated. This is what’s puzzling me.

        As I said elsewhere there may be personal reasons why Elina’s not playing her best tennis at the moment, but since she hasn’t mentioned it herself I’m reluctant to say too much on that score.

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      • Difference between Elina and Ostapenko on casual observation is Elina is playing Halep who has only 1 win out of possible 3 and not qualified yet.
        Digging deeper, Garcia has a similar 1 win out of 3. If Elina gets 1 win out 3 too (This means on friday, she beats Halep and Garcia loses to Woz) then we have Garcia, Halep and Elina tied.

        By rule 4a the highest percentage of sets won applies here. Elina can only get a higher percentage advantage here if she beat Halep in Straight sets, because Simona already has a straights sets win in her pocket. So for Svitolina, a must for her to win in straights, and a prayer to tennis gods for the Danish Caroline to win.

        Halep has the better odds of the three, she just needs to beat Svitolina to move on. If she happens to tie with Garcia for 2 wins out of 3, her H-H ruling wins. If she loses in 3 sets and Woz beats Garcia she still lives to fight on!

        I guess Wozniacki plays the role of ‘devil in the details’ because even in a 3 way tie with Halep and Garcia, the 4a ruling(percentages) leaves her sitting pretty, and she gives a 4b carrot to Halep and a 4b stick to Garcia.

        Sadly, Garcia needs to beat Woz and have Svitolina beat Halep then she rules the roost. It’s possible!

        Hope I got it right, this round robin thing, can be fun but it’s sometimes a royal pain in the tush 😛 .

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      • Svitolina played a super match yesterday and has nothing to be ashamed of. She hit some of the best passing shots you’re ever likely to see and had great stats. Garcia just came up with MAGIC in that third set and there wasn’t much that any player could have done against that.
        I hope Caro brings that levels against Wozniacki. It could be a fabulous encounter or a(nother) real dud.. .

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      • Venus did not actually play very well to bear Ostapenko. Ostapenko actually served herself out of the competition. I believe Muguruza will still win this match though she has no show up the other night.

        Each RR win will earn the player $153K. So, I believe the winner of the group will still play for the win. Perhaps they can try many other options to prepare for their SF.

        WTA decided to change the court speed back to the exact surface that they played in 2014 (instead of 2015 and 2016 where the speed had sped up) …perhaps Pushniaski is playing this year. The court is exactly designed for her. It is very heavy and slow. The ball also stays still in the air longer and bounces higher for any pusher to hit a winner. Please look at the scorelines, we have more unforced errors than winners. The key to winning any WTA Finale match in Singapore is to push the ball back in play, and wait for your opponent to make errors, or you are a marathon runner will win for sure.

        I believe Ostapenko will play better since she has nothing to lose. Halep…..I have no ideas.
        Svitolina has groin injuries before the tournament. Again, she lost 3 times in a row when she led 5-3. So, there is not an excuse. This is something to blame herself because she starts pushing after leading in the scorelines.

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      • Pliskova is guaranteed the winner of the group regardless of the match.

        Halep will most likely qualify for the SF if she wants to salvage her #1 ranking. I have no words if she losses since Svitolina has groin injuries.

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      • 25 winners to 7 unforced errors in one set against a top five player is pretty unbelievable, especially when your opponent hits 12 winners to 7 errors which is hardly poor!

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  5. It is because of how the round robin rules apply to the results to rank the players. Personally, it gets really annoying if you don’t win outright. Focus on section ….4a and 4b, that’s where the devil in the details resides.

    1. Greatest number of wins; then
    2. Greatest number of matches played; then
    3. Head-to-head results if only two players are tied; or

    4. If three players are tied:
    a) Highest percentage of sets won; if after the calculation two players remain tied, head-to-head results; then
    (b) If after applying (a) all three players remain tied, highest percentage of games won; if after the calculation two players remain tied, head-to-head results; then
    (c) If after applying (a) and (b) all three (3) players remain tied, the Finals Rankings

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  6. The reason for Garcia winning and Svitolina losing was Garcia’s courage. Svitolina played well and agressive most time but at crucial points only kept balls back.

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    • I’m going to be bold and put forth that Garcia is the best player in the field this year based on skill and potential. When she’s playing well she has no weaknesses at all and she’s actually managed to develop something of a B game when she isn’t completely on where she can hustle and stay in the points. She’s the only one of them who can attack and defend equally well.

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  7. Ok. Pliskova is hoping Muguruza to beat Venus 61 62 so she can avoid Halep in the SF if Halep manages to beat Svitolina. Haaaa I take my risk to put $350 on Ostapenko before the match. Thank you Alona!

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    • If Svitolina beats Halep in straights and Garcia beats Wozniacki in straights then itd be the two Carolines coming through. If im not mistaken, if Halep wins in straights and Garcia doesn’t win in straights then it’s Wozniacki & Halep.

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  8. Jelena beats Karolina 6-3, 6-1! I suppose she felt she had nothing to lose and so just went for it flat out like she did at Roland Garros.

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    • She was really impressive, but she was definitely helped by Pliskova being oddly tense, especially when it came to returning Ostapenko’s serve. She really let Jelena off which is bizarre because her return was ferocious in her first two matches!

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      • Yes, I’m very happy that Jelena ended her season on a high note but, as someone on Tennis Forum pointed out, it does show a deficiency of the tournament’s round robin format. Once Jelena had put Karolina in a position where she needed to fight hard to have any chance of winning the match, which could have compromised her ability to give her all in the tournament’s final stages, there was only going to be one winner when she had nothing to gain from doing that.

        Nevertheless, Martina Navratilova criticised Karo yesterday for letting Jelena have such an emphatic win. She said that winning matches has to become a habit for a top player, even when you don’t feel like it.

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  9. It appears Halep needs to win her next match(vs Svitolina) to be WTA #1 at years end over Muguruza, as mentioned by Frank above.

    Schiavone #90 is playing in the ITF in Macon, Ga USA apparently to boast her year end rankings to guaranty a spot in the AO.

    Hingis retires—-Great 20+ career. She goes out as World #1 in doubles.

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