Tauson, Vekic Set Up Courmayeur Title Clash

Clara Tauson (photo: Francesco Peluso/Courmayeur Ladies Open)

COURMAYEUR/WASHINGTON, October 31, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Danish teenager Clara Tauson will go after her third WTA tour-level title in her rookie season on the tour Sunday following a remarkable comeback victory in the semifinals of the Courmayeur Ladies Open Saturday afternoon in the Italian Alps region at the foot of Mont Blanc.

The 18-year-old Tauson, currently ranked 49th, who previously won tour-level titles this season in Lyon, France and at Luxembourg – and has strung together 42 wins in all competitions – defeated No. 3 seed Liudmilla Samsonova of Russia, 4-6, 7-6 (8), 6-4 in two hours and 27 minutes during the first semifinal of the day. The No. 5 seed from Kongens Lyngby, Denmark saved five match points against her opponent to pull out the victory.

From 6-2 in the tie-break, Tauson saved the first four match points, one by one. Next, she gained a set-point of her own at 7-6. Then, the 42nd-ranked Samsonova fought off the set point with an ace and soon had her fifth match point at 8-7. However, Tauson saved it and went on to win two more consecutive points to put away the set.

Tauson and Samsonova combined to hit 28 aces – 16 by Samsonova, 12 by Tauson – and both were highly successful in winning points on their first serve. Samsonova won 85 percent (45 of 53) and Tauson won 78 percent (49 of 63). Samsonova finished with 108 points to 106 by Tauson. It was that even of a match.

Afterward, Tauson admitted she thought she was finished in the tie break. “I just tried to put the ball in the court because she’s such a big serve,” she said during her on-court interview. “I was just trying to guess where she was serving at the end, and I don’t know what happened!

“She was serving so good, she was pushing me all the time, just hitting so hard. So, I was always in the defense. As many know, I like to play offense, but sometimes you have to do what you gotta do.”

Meanwhile, Donna Vekic has picked up this week where she left off before a knee injury derailed her for much of the 2021 season. The personable 25-year-old from Osijek, Croatia, a former Top-20 player now ranked 97th, defeated No. 7 seed Jasmine Paolini of Italy, 6-2, 6-0 in 64 minutes to advance to Sunday’s final against Tauson. It’s Vekic’s first WTA final since 2019 at Nottingham on grass.

Although the 56th-ranked Paolini won their only other meeting, earlier this season during qualifying for the Western & Southern Open in Mason, Ohio, this time it was Vekic who controlled the tempo of the match. She continued her run of straight-set victories, which now totals four this week.

“Maybe it looks easy by the score, but it was actually a really tough match,” Vekic said during her on-court TV interview following her victory. “[Jasmine’s] a very tough player, she was making me play a lot of balls, also being aggressive.”

Vekic underwent knee surgery in February and missed three months. This week, it seems, she is making up for lost time. Against Paolini, Vekic hit six aces, won 79 percent (19 of 24) of her first-serve points and hit 22 winners to 13 unforced errors. She outpointed Paolini 58-36 and now will have a chance to win her first WTA title since 2017, also at Nottingham.

• The Courmayeur Ladies Open doubles title was won by the Chinese pair of Wang Xinyu and Zheng Saisai. They defeated No. 3 seeds Zhang Shuai of China and Eri Hozumi of Japan, 6-4, 3-6, 10-5, in one hour and 25 minutes.

Courmayeur represented the second title victory this season for Zheng and Wang. Earlier this season, they won a WTA 115K title in Columbus, Ohio.

Halep, Kontaveit Set Up Cluj-Napoca Showdown

Simona Halep‘s 6-0, 6-1 victory over Ukrainian teenager Marta Kostyuk ensured that there would be a Romanian home favorite playing in the title match of the Transylvania Open in Cluj-Napoca, Romania on Sunday.

On Saturday, the top seed and World No. 18 Halep needed just 63 minutes to ensure herself of reaching a final in her 12th consecutive year. She saved the only break point she faced and outpointed No. 55 Kostyuk 60-31.

“I really wanted to play the final here,” Halep expressed in her on-court TV interview after her victory. She paved the way with her steady play that included 10 winners and 12 unforced errors while Kostyuk was undone by 38 unforced errors. “It’s a home tournament and always when I come here, I feel great. I’m really happy, motivated and I’m looking forward to play the final.

“I knew that I had to play a little bit faster, more aggressive and to open the court a little bit more.”

Earlier, the No. 2 seed and World No. 14 Anett Kontaveit lost only five games in her 6-3, 6-2 victory over 99th-ranked Rebecca Peterson of Sweden. The victory was the Estonian’s ninth straight and her 25th in her last 27 matches. She’s into her fourth final in her last seven tournaments and sixth of the season overall.

“I’ve been feeling really good on the court, and today wasn’t as easy as the scoreboard seemed. I really had to fight for it,” Kontaveit said in her on-court interview. She finished with 23 winners to just four for Peterson.

“Everything’s been pretty automatic [for me] this week. I’ve been trying to get through each match as well as I can. I think I’ve been playing well, I’ve been playing aggressive, and my shots have a lot on them.”

Halep and Kontaveit have previously met three times and the former No. 1 has won each time in straight sets: In the first round at the Miami Open in 2017, in the quarterfinals at Rome in 2017, and in the quarterfinals at the Australian Open in 2020.

• No. 2 doubles seeds Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove of the Netherlands and Aleksandra Krunic of Serbia will play unseeded Ekaterine Gorgodze of Georgia and Irina Bara of Romania in Sunday’s final.

Pattinama Kerkhove and Krunic defeated Natela Dzalamidze of Russia and Kaja Juvan of Slovenia, 6-4, 7-5, while Gorgodze and Bara beat Irina-Camelia Begu and Cristina-Andreea Mitu, both of Romania, 6-3, 2-6, 10-7.

“Quotable …”

“I’m just trying to give my best, trying to be aggressive and enjoy. When I smile inside, it looks better outside. I have the whole country with me when I play at home. So, that’s why I’m motivated, that’s why I feel safe and strong on the court, and I always want to play my best.”

Simona Halep of Romania, the No. 1 seed in the Transylvania Open, who will be going for her third career title in Romania after winning twice in Bucharest on clay in 2014 and 2016.