Juvan Wins Battle Of Slovenians At Portoroz

Kaja Juvan (photo: Matic Klansek Velej/Sportida)

WASHINGTON, September 18, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Fifth seed Tamara Zidansek and 103rd-ranked Kaja Juvan, the last of five Slovenian players who started the week in the main draw of the WTA 250 outdoor hard court Zavarovalnica Sava Portoroz, met in Friday evening’s featured quarterfinal match in Portoroz, a resort town on Slovenia’s Adriatic coast.

Earlier this week, Juvan upset No. 1 seed Petra Martic of Croatia, ranked 42nd, 6-3, 6-4, and Friday afternoon completed her suspended second-round match with a 7-6 (1), 6-4 win against 176th-ranked Serbian qualifier Aleksandra Krunic to reach her first WTA tour-level quarterfinal at Tennis Center Portoroz.

Meanwhile, the 23-year-old Zidansek’s journey to the quarterfinals included an easy 6-1, 6-1 first-round win over 318th-ranked Italian qualifier Cristiana Fernando and a walkover win against No. 64 Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine. The 40th-ranked Zidansek from Postojna, who is enjoying a career-best ranking, came in with a 3-0 lifetime win-loss record against Juvan.

However, Juvan came ready to play Friday and she pulled off her second upset of the tournament with a brilliant 7-6 (4), 6-3 victory over Zidansek, converting her fourth match point to advance to her first WTA tour-level semifinal on Saturday. Juvan hit 21 winners to 33 unforced errors and outpointed Zidansek 83-66. The Slovenian No. 1 finished with 22 winners but made an uncharacteristic 47 unforced errors.

The victory, which improved Juvan’s 2021 win-loss record to 18-16 in all competitions, assures that Juvan will break back into the WTA Top 100 next week. The loss dropped Zidansek to 28-17.

Next, the 20-year-old Juvan, a native of Ljubljana, will face No. 3 seed Alison Riske of the United States, who eliminated No. 68 Kristina Mladenovic of France, 6-4, 6-1, in 90 minutes. The 38th-ranked Riske, who was competing in her first quarterfinal since January 2020 at Brisbane, hit 21 winners to 23 unforced errors and converted six of nine break points against Mladenovic to advance to her first WTA tour-level semifinal since 2019 at Wuhan.

Earlier, No. 2 seed Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan, ranked 44th, advanced to her second semifinal of the season following her 6-3, 6-2 win over 167th-ranked Italian qualifier Lucia Bronzetti. Putintseva came back from 0-3 down in the first set and converted five of six break-point opportunities.

Next, Putintseva will play unseeded No. 87 Jasmine Paolini of Italy, who upset No. 4 seed Sorana Cirstea of Romania, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, for her fifth career win against a Top 50 opponent. Paolini will be playing in her first semifinal above the WTA 125 level.

After a day of upsets, No. 3 Ostapenko highest remaining seed in Luxembourg

No. 3 seed Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia, advanced to the semifinals of the BGL BNP Paribas Luxembourg Open in Kockelscheuer, Luxembourg, with a 7-6 (6), 6-2 win over No. 8 seed Alizé Cornet of France. It was her eighth straight win in the Luxembourg tournament going back to 2019.

The 30th-ranked Ostapenko, who won the 2019 Luxembourg title, twice came back from a break down in the opening set and then saved a set point during the first-set tie break. She outpointed Cornet 72-60 to move into Saturday’s last four against No. 7 seed Liudmila Samsonova, who upset No. 1 seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, 6-1, 6-4.

The 48th-ranked Russian served out the victory at love and outpointed Bencic 61-44 in back of 14 winners to just seven unforced errors. She was not broken in the match and her serve was in danger just once during the one hour and 12-minute quarterfinal. It was the second time Samsonova has beaten the Olympic gold medalist this season. The first came in the final at the Bett1Open in Berlin on grass last June.

Also advancing to the semifinals was No. 5 seed and Olympic silver medalist Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic, who garnered 10 of the last 12 games of her one hour and 37-minute quarterfinal match against No. 2 seed Elise Mertens of Belgium, to win 7-5, 6-2.

Vondrousova hit 24 winners to 15 unforced errors and outpointed Mertens 72-57. Next, she will face unseeded No. 70 Clara Tauson of Denmark, who defeated No. 84 Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic, 6-3, 6-2. Tauson, who won her first WTA tour-level title at Lyon last March, is looking to win her second indoor hard court title this year. In all competitions, she’s 35-13 this season.