DOHA, February 28, 2016-Jelena Ostapenko could have waltz her way to glory, given her prowess at ballroom dancing, instead she decided to use her racquet and a strong baseline game to reach for the stars.
Unfortunately, the 18-year old Latvian was left a few metres short, when Spaniard Carla Suárez Navarro halted her run in the final of $2,818,000 WTA Qatar Total Open, here on Saturday.
And in the battle of youth and experience, it was the 27-year old Navarro who reigned supreme with a 1-6, 6-4, 6-4 win over the Latvian teenager on the Centre Court of the Khalifa International Tennis & Squash Complex amidst a packed crowd.
The effort saw Suarez Navarro earn $518, 500 besides 900 WTA points and the beautifully crafted trophy which she received at the hands of HE Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad al Thani, President, Qatar Olympic Committee.
On Saturday, after one hour 51 minutes Centre Court final against the Spaniard, a modest Ostapenko summed up her performance, saying, “I was just trying to play my best and I hope you enjoyed watching it too.”
It was the same performance that saw her rub off some of the best names on the circuit. Among those the biggest would be former French Open and US Open Champion Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia, and World No. 8 Czech Petra Kvitova.
The first set was gone in blink, shy the fifth game and the result was but obvious – 1-6. It was almost as if Suárez had let it go. After all, she had just won one game in the entire set. Often seeded and experienced players use the ploy to outrun or tire their opponent.
That’s precisely what Suárez did when she was broken early in the set. She let Ostapenko race to a 4-0 advantage, which was soon converted to 6-1.
And just when the Latvian was beginning to get a bit compliant, basking under the glory of the first set advantage, Suárez struck back. She waited, games went by, but she waited. Until, finally the opportunity came in the seventh game when an exhausted Ostapenko looked like the game herself and with little effort Suárez bagged her catch, with a break, the only one in the second set (6-4).
Deep into the third set Ostapenko was looking disoriented. Her mother and coach Jelena Jakovleva not just showered the motherly love, but also the words of wisdom akin to an experienced coach. But, her attempt at helping her ward stay calm failed and the unforced errors mounted. In totality they were 45 – a reflection into Ostapenko’s temperament, which had taken a beating.
She lost the final set 6-4, but won the hearts with her youth, flamboyance and modesty.
“You know, she plays really fast and is tough opponent. She plays with no pressure. She plays really, really good,” said Suárez of Ostapenko.
Ostapenko on her part, said: “Maybe, because she’s almost 28 and I am still 18. I hope more finals to come for me.”