An extremely interesting women’s semifinal clash at the China Open sees ninth seed Jelena Ostapenko, who has secured her place at the WTA Finals this week, take on second seed Simona Halep, once again just one win from the world number one ranking, face off for a place in the final in Beijing.
The two have only played each other one time before, with that meeting coming in the final of the French Open earlier this year. It proved to be one of the most entertaining Grand Slam finals in recent memory, with Ostapenko coming from a set down and then a break down in the second and third sets to secure her first ever tour title. With both women playing well this week, we may be set for another fantastic encounter.
This will be the second match of the day on the National Tennis Stadium, taking place after one of the Women’s Doubles semifinals, with the encounter starting no earlier than 14:30 Beijing time. The winner will face 12th seed Petra Kvitova or Caroline Garcia in the final.
So far in Beijing
Both women have impressed in Beijing so far, though Ostapenko may be slightly more fresh having played less tennis this week.
The Latvian received a bye in the first round, due to the fact that she had reached the semifinals in Wuhan last week. In her opening match she saw off Samantha Stosur in straight sets to seal her place in Singapore as well as reach the third round, where she progressed after Shuai Peng retired just three games in. Ostapenko then impressed as she beat Sorana Cirstea to reach the last four, and will be confident having lost just one match since the US Open.
Halep came into Beijing on a three match losing streak, and that may have shown as she was pushed to three sets by Alison Riske in her opening match, eventually prevailing. The Romanian eased into the third round after Magdalena Rybarikova retired a set and a break down, though then put in one of the best performances of her career as she beat Maria Sharapova for the loss of just four games; she had never beaten the Russian before. Halep then crushed Daria Kasatkina 6-2, 6-1 (the same scoreline that Kasatkina had beaten her by last week) to reach the last four, and will be looking to amend her loss in Paris.
Perhaps the best performance from either women this week was Halep’s against Sharapova. The world number two was striking the ball beautifully, allowing her to be aggressive and force mistakes, as well as serve well, and if she is able to do that again she will have a good chance at reaching the final. Ostapenko is the more powerful of the two, so Halep will have to defend, though the Romanian should look to frustrate the Latvian by forcing her to play extra shots in as many points as possible.
Serving is important for both women but particularly Ostapenko, whose second serve can be a liability and could be punished if her opponent is in an aggressive mood. The Latvian should perhaps look to take some power off her first serve to make sure it gets into play, though must be willing to attack at full strength (as she always is) to try and break Halep down; she must also show some patience, as the Romanian will likely stay in the point longer than many others will.
The French Open final between was one of the most enjoyable matches in recent years, and if both women are playing well once again we could have another memorable encounter. Both are certainly capable of winning this encounter and no result, whether one-sided or extremely tight, should be surprising, but it seems that Halep may be confident enough to take the win.
Prediction: Simona Halep in three sets