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Schmiedlova and Ostapenko reach junior girls' final

Kristina Schmiedlova serves during the Junior event
by Matt Trollope
Saturday 5 July 2014

The final of the girls' singles, an upset-riddled event, will be contested by No.8 seed Kristina Schmiedlova and unseeded Latvian Jelena Ostapenko.

They came through their semi-finals in contrasting circumstances on a grey and sometimes rainy Saturday at the All England Club, with Ostapenko breezing to victory in just 48 minutes over Czech Marketa Vondrousova while Slovakia’s Schmiedlova needed three sets and nearly two hours to subdue Romania’s Elena Gabriela Ruse.

Just two of the tournament's top-eight seeds – one being Schmiedlova – survived to the quarter-finals, and Ostapenko eliminated the highest of them, No.3 Tornado Alicia Black, for the loss of just four games.

Both finalists have links to highly-regarded professional players; Schmiedlova is the younger sister of Anna, a rapidly-rising teen who ousted Venus Williams en route to the third round at Roland Garros, while Ostapenko hails from the same nation as top 10 player Ernests Gulbis, who invited the teen to sit in his entourage for two matches during his run to the semi-finals at Roland Garros.

It will be a repeat of the final at the Wimbledon junior tune-up event in Roehampton, a match won by Ostapenko in straight sets. “I think she’s a really good player. I think if I play my best game, then I have chances to win,” the Latvian said. “I feel really comfortable because the grass is quite a fast surface. So for me it’s good because I think I can serve really well and I play aggressive, it’s my style so maybe it’s a bit easier for me to win here than for the others.”

Indeed, it was this aggression that helped her to overwhelm Vondrousova, a big-hitting Czech lefty but who for the most part could not read the direction or handle the pace of Ostapenko’s ground-strokes. A flurry of winners helped Ostapenko to a quick 3-0 lead, and 10 winners to six helped her to pocket the opening set in just 21 minutes.

Vondrousova certainly made it more competitive in the second stanza, but even when the games were tight, Ostapenko generally came out on top. She escaped from a tight fourth game to move ahead 4-0, and although she endured a lapse into errors that helped the Czech onto the board and win two games in a row, she recovered.

Not even a rain delay at 5-2 could throw off her momentum; when the players returned to the court, Ostapenko served out a 6-1, 6-2 victory to take her winning streak to 11 matches.

It wasn’t so easy for Schmiedlova, who dropped the first set to the powerful Ruse, a compact yet aggressive player in the mould of Flavia Pennetta.

Schmiedlova managed to break serve to lead 2-0 before the rain fell, and when players returned to the court Ruse could barely find the court, committing several errors and soon finding herself down 1-5. She broke for 2-5 and then after a lengthy injury time-out, she held serve for 3-5 with her left thigh heavily strapped.

Yet Schmiedlova served out the set to send it to a third, and the match then progressed evenly on serve until Ruse threw in a double fault to surrender serve in the seventh game. Schmiedlova held for 5-3 thanks to several winners, and two games later moved ahead 40-0 to secure three match points. The Romanian battled, saving those and another two in an epic game of six deuces. But she erred one time too many; a backhand error sent the Slovak into the final after a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory.

Schmiedlova, who said her serve had been her biggest strength in victory, was hoping to learn from her experience in the Roehampton final. “She played very aggressive so I will have to change something, but I will ask my coach,” she said.

And in the replay on the even grander stage of Wimbledon, both were thrilled to be competing for their first junior Grand Slam singles titles

Said Ostapenko: “Happy that I can play the finals here, and I will try my best.”

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