China Open 2017 Semifinal Preview: Jelena Ostapenko vs Simona Halep

The last time they met, Jelena Ostapenko was ranked No.47… Now five months later, Ostapenko is a Grand Slam champion and has entrenched herself in the world’s top 10. It’s a French Open final rematch on the cards as Simona Halep will try to exact revenge on the Latvian for a spot in the China Open final.

[9] Jelena Ostapenko (No.10)

Route to this stage


R2: d. Samantha Stosur, 6-3 7-5

R3: d. Peng Shuai, 3-0 ret.

QF: d. Sorana Cirstea, 6-4 6-4

Jelena Ostapenko’s year just keeps getting better and better since the French Open. After her stunning Roland Garros triumph, Ostapenko has continued rising up the rankings steeply. She backed up the French Open with a run to the quarterfinals in Wimbledon, but had a dip in form during the US hard court swing. However she turned up the screw again in Asia, as of now 11-1 during the Asian swing. She captured her first WTA title in Seoul but did not need to play a top 50 player, which boosted her confidence and helped her make the semifinals in Wuhan, beating World No.1 Garbine Muguruza along the way. Ostapenko did not need to face a seed in Beijing and managed to cruise past her first three opponents to reach the semifinals here for the first time.

[2] Simona Halep (No.2)

Route to this stage

R1: d. Alison Riske, 6-3 3-6 6-2

R2: d. Magdalena Rybarikova, 6-1 2-1 ret.

R3: d. [WC] Maria Sharapova, 6-2 6-2

QF: d. Daria Kasatkina, 6-2 6-1

Simona Halep has never done well in Asia but seems to be reversing her fortunes in the Chinese capital this year. Coming off a disappointing first round loss to Maria Sharapova in the US Open (admittedly a tough draw), Halep hired a new coach in Andrei Pavel to her team and it seems to be paying off already. The World No.2 went on a three-match losing streak in Wuhan to Daria Kasatkina last week but immediately turned things around this week with a tough three-set battle against Alison Riske in Beijing. This was what set Halep’s week up as she played arguably her best performance of the year against Maria Sharapova, exacting revenge by counter-punching supremely well and most importantly, her serve wasn’t sitting up and that was what she said she wanted to improve on after the US Open. Halep continued that good form in another revenge special by blasting past Kasatkina in superior fashion. As of now she is the favourite for the title, but first she’ll have to have her ‘part III revenge’ against Ostapenko to reach the final…

Head to head: The pair, as said above, last met at the French Open where Ostapenko claimed her first Grand Slam title with a 4-6 6-4 6-3. Halep was leading 6-4 3-0 and break point up in that match but lost her way then…

Ranking implications: Halep and the No.1 ranking… it hasn’t been a match made in heaven this year has it? Once again for the fourth time this season, Halep could secure the No.1 ranking with a win over Ostapenko. However, it will not be confirmed as of yet as Elina Svitolina also has a chance at it with the Beijing title. If Simona wins this one and Svitolina doesn’t win the title, then Halep will finally become No.1.

Thoughts: Ostapenko’s meteoric rise has been one of the major points of 2017, but that doesn’t mean she has loads to work on. The Latvian has been struggling with her serve throughout the whole of this year. She only managed to land 46% of first serves in the match against Cirstea (31% in first set) and 50% against Stosur. Ostapenko is also the leader for most double faults this year, with 340.

One point in the French Open final I remember Simona talking about was not attacking one of Ostapenko’s second serves on a break point, and she said she kind of regretted that. She has been doing that very well in Beijing though, winning 67% and 78% of second serve return points against Sharapova and Kasatkina respectively. Her serve has also been working well this week and I think if she can attack the Ostapenko second serve and dictate points as much when her first serve gets into play, she will win this one.

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