A Dreamy Week For Tauson, Golubic Continues

Voktorija Golubic (photo: Alexandre Hergott/Open 6ème Sens – Métropole de Lyon)

LYON/WASHINGTON, March 7, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

While Danish teenager Clara Tauson‘s dream week to remember continued at the Open 6ème Sens – Métropole de Lyon on Saturday, it’s been a pretty dreamy run for another qualifier, Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland, too.

On Saturday, inside spacious but quiet Halle Tony Garnier in Lyon, 18-year-old Tauson eliminated No. 7 seed Paula Badosa of Spain, 7-5, 6-1 in one hour and 30 minutes. Then, Golubic, who is 10 years Tauson’s senior, went the distance against No. 2 Fiona Ferro of France, the last of seven Frenchwoman who started the week in the main draw, and won 4-6, 6-0, 7-6 (4), in two hours and 26 minutes.

Sunday afternoon’s 3:30 p.m. (Central European) final will be contested by two qualifiers for the first time in a WTA tour-level final since 2017 when Zarina Diyas defeated Miya Kato at the Japan Women’s Open in Tokyo.

While the 139th-ranked Tauson has garnered much world-wide attention for her march to her first WTA final in just her third WTA main draw, which began Monday with her upset of the tournament’s No. 1 seed, No. 33 Ekaterina Alexandrova, the 28-year-old Golubic has reached her first WTA final of the season, too. The Zürich native has dropped just two sets this week and has racked up consecutive wins over three higher-ranked opponents, No. 47 Caroline Garcia, No. 113 Greet Minnen and Ferro, in the past three days.

Prior to Lyon, both Tauson and Golubic have been, arguably, the two most in-form players this year on the ITF World Tour circuit. Tauson beat Golubic, 6-0, 4-6, 6-3 to win the ITF W25 final in Fujairah, U.A.E., in January, then Golubic in her next tournament won the Grenoble ITF W25 event in France and followed it with a semifinal finish at an ITF W25 tournament in Altenkirchen, Germany, won by Tauson. In all competitions, both have put together impressive win-loss records. Golubic is 19-3 while Tauson is 18-3.

Against the 73rd-ranked Badosa, Tauson channeled her frustration over three first-set overrules by chair umpire François Lutz – including one on a set point ahead 6-5 – into some outstanding shot making and let her racquet do her talking. After winning the opening set on her sixth set-point attempt that ended a marathon 18-point game, the second set was far less dramatic. Instead, Tauson used her powerful forehand to move Badosa back-and-forth, showing her aggressiveness while taking advantage of her opponent’s hobbled movement due to a leg injury that had required medical attention.

“After those calls, I was pretty frustrated as I think everyone saw,” Tauson told Tennis TourTalk during her virtual press conference. “I’m trying to play it point by point. Even if the ball is in, out, whatever, the point is over and I can’t do anything about the calls. I just tried to win the next point. That’s the key.”

In the end, Tauson won the match thanks to a success rate of 82 percent (31 of 38) on her first-serve points opportunities, which included serving four aces. She saved three of five break points while converting five of 17 chances, and outpointed Badosa 81-59.

“I’m very happy, of course. It was a good match today and I kept my nerves fairly calm. I’m very happy with the win and being in the final,” Tauson said. Looking ahead to Sunday, she smiled and offered: “I’m just going to go out there and have fun like I’ve done in all the matches so far. I’m looking forward to it.”

Meanwhile, the No. 130 Golubic, who back in her home country is the Swiss No. 4, rallied from a set down and came back to bagel the 46th-ranked Ferro. Then, she won the match that was decided in a third-set tie break after holding from 5-6 following a lengthy 12th game.

“In the end, we were both playing at a really good level, especially when I was serving at 5-6. It was so tough because she hit so many winners in this game,” Golubic told Tennis TourTalk. “I just tried to not be bothered by it. I went for some of my own shots because she was playing so well. Fortunately, it all worked out in the end.

“I was tired in the last 10 minutes of the match. I knew I had two match points and even if I didn’t win the first one, I had the second one. I just wanted to take my time.”

It worked out for Golubic. Upon winning match point after Ferro ended a four-shot rally by hitting a backhand into the net, she went down on one knee to say a prayer, then tapped her head gently with her fist all the while smiling toward her team.

“I tried to go with the mentality that it was fun out there,” said Golubic, who has won one WTA tour title, at Gstaad in 2016. “You train for those moments. The tension was high, but you want to enjoy it. That’s when you play your best. I was relieved and happy when I won match point.”

When Golubic was asked by Tennis TourTalk about facing Tauson, she admitted that her Sunday opponent is “a big hitter who is really powerful.”

She added: “She’s so young and already such a good player. It’s a very tough match coming up. When I played her [in Fujairah, I thought she was pretty strong to be playing in a [ITF] 25. I was thinking we might play a final in a bigger tournament. I didn’t expect it be like a few weeks after that. I’m happy for both of us. I’m excited because it’s a good challenge. It’s a tough way to get that title, but I want to make it tough for her, too.”

Breathtaking performance by Schwartzman

With semifinal victories on Saturday by World No. 9 Diego Schwartzman and fellow Argentine Francisco Cerundolo, ranked No. 137, the ATP 250 Argentina Open in Buenos Aires is guaranteed that its 2021 champion will be from Argentina for the first time since David Nalbandian won the event in 2008.

Dubai DFTC women’s draw released

The WTA’s first 1000 event of the year, the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, begins Sunday. In the second half of the annual Doha-Dubai back-to-back, World No. 5 Elina Svitolina, who won titles in the Emirates back in 2017 and 2018, is the top seed and one of three former champions in this year’s draw.

This year’s Dubai field is world class and features 12 of the current Top 20 players, including: Svitolina, World No. 6 Karolina Pliskova, No. 8 Aryna Sabalenka, Doha champion No. 10 Petra Kvitova, No. 11 Kiki Bertens, defending Dubai champion No. 12 Belinda Bencic, No. 14 Victoria Azarenka, No. 15 Iga Swiatek, No. 16 Garbiñe Muguruza, No. 18 Elise Mertens, No. 19 Madison Keys and No. 20 Marketa Vondrousova.

“The last time, I was here with more than 10 people (in Feb. 2020 pre-pandemic), but now I’m happy to be here and playing,” Svitolina said during a virtual interview on Saturday. “Playing in Dubai is always an experience. You have to adjust your game very quickly. Fortunately, I still have a couple of days before my first match.”

The opportunity for some great early-round matchups exists and one could pair Adelaide International champion Swiatek against Doha finalist Muguruza in the round of 16. If it comes to fruition, it would be a first-time meeting between these two talented players.

The 48-player main draw begins with eight first-round singles matches. Among those who are playing on the first day are Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur against Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic and wild card Coco Gauff from the United States against Lyon top seed Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia, who lost in the first round to Danish teenager Clara Tauson.

Jabeur sat for a brief virtual interview with a group of reporters that included Tennis TourTalk. The 31st-ranked Tunisian talked about her most recent match, which was a tough three-set second-round loss to Pliskova in Doha, and the challenges of playing back-to-back in the two Middle East desert climates. On Pliskova, she said: “I was not expecting her to defend as good as she did. I’m proud of myself of all the comebacks I made in this match. It’s disappointing to lose in these two countries. It’s very special for me to win here. It was very hard emotionally for me to lose. … I booked my flight at 1 a.m. and went to Dubai to prepare. It’s short timing between both tournaments. I’ve had to recover very fast and be ready for Dubai.

“I’m not going to put too much pressure on myself. I’m going to play match by match without much expectations. I think that’s what hurt me in Doha. It is what it is. I know I’m working hard, going on a good path. Hopefully, it will pay off.”

On playing in the Doha-to-Dubai back-to-back, Jabeur said, “It’s tough, but I’m physically ready. I love to play in these two tournaments. It’s always fun to play back-to-back. … We’re lucky to have this. I love playing here, love being here. Let’s see what this tournament holds for me here.”

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