SEOUL– In collecting her second career WTA singles title on Sunday in Seoul, Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia tried to stay as even keeled as possible and keep the focus on her own game despite potential distractions.
Alexandrova, seeded No. 2, defeated the top seed from Latvia, Jelena Ostapenko, 7-6 (7-4), 6-0 in the final of the WTA Hana Bank Korea Open at Olympic Park Tennis Center in Seoul on Sunday.
The second set was as lopsided as the first set was tightly-contested, as Ostapenko played through a right big toe injury that required medical attention after the third game.
Alexandrova, up 3-0 then, tried to ensure she wouldn’t let her opponent’s injury get to her head and make her take the foot off the gas.
“I was just trying to keep it the same way, not think about what was happening on the other side and keep focused on myself,” Alexandrova said at her postmatch press conference. “It was important not to miss the opportunity to secure the set.”
Ostapenko wasn’t the same after her medical timeout, and Alexandrova did not concede a point in her final two games. But the Russian’s start wasn’t as smooth as the finish. She admitted to battling some butterflies early, as Ostapenko claimed the first two games of the opening set.
“I think it was tough for me to start because I was really nervous. I couldn’t find the rhythm in the first couple of games,” she said. “But the longer we played, the better I felt. Somewhere toward the end of the first set, I finally found the rhythm and I continued to keep it that way in the second set. But at the start of the match, I couldn’t get used to the speed that Jelena was playing with.”
Alexandrova came back from a 5-3 deficit in the first set to force a tiebreak, where she used her superb groundstrokes after losing the first two points.
And with Ostapenko’s movements limited due to her toe issues, Alexandrova breezed through a 25-minute set for the title.
Alexandrova now improved to 5-2 all-time against Ostapenko, and has yet to lose to the Latvian at an outdoor event. Alexandrova said she was not aware of her head-to-head advantage, and she didn’t necessarily want to know, either.
“When you’re playing Jelena, it’s never easy. It’s always tough,” Alexandrova said. “It doesn’t matter if you have a 4-2 lead. She’s a great player. She hits it hard. She knows how to win. Before the match, I was just preparing myself knowing it won’t be easy. No matter the results, just go do your best. That was the mindset before the game.”
Alexandrova has spoken about her love of Seoul and she has even visited the city during offseasons for fun. She isn’t scheduled to leave South Korea until Wednesday, giving her some time to “explore something new and just enjoy my time here.”
Alexandrova arrived here ranked 24th and is projected to rise to a new career-high 21st. She was No. 34 at the start of this year and dropped to outside the top 50 by March.
“It always feels great to achieve something new in a career,” she said. “My goal was to be back inside the top 50, possibly the top 30 by the end of the year. Now, being No. 21 in the world, it feels amazing. I want to go higher and end the year inside the top 20 in the best case scenario.”
Source: Yonhap News Agency