The third day of the 2017 WTA Finals witnessed a classic being played out at the Singapore Indoor Stadium as the tournament witnessed its third longest match in history, with Venus Williams getting her first win in front of the enthusiastic crowd after an incredible 193 minutes, ousting the inspired and determined Jelena Ostapenko, who just fell short in the end. Furthermore, at 37 games, this match sets the record of the most games played in a three-set match at the year-end Championships.
Slow start to the match by both players
Characteristic of a Venus match, the American had a slow start to the match as she was unable to find her groove early on, misfiring all her shots. Some big hitting from Williams allowed her to earn a game point but it was not enough as Ostapenko viciously attacked those vulnerable second serves, coming up with a return winner on break point to grab the early break. However, Williams was slowly finding her movement and powerful forehands but had to rely on Ostapenko throwing in a double-fault on break point to break straight back.
Ostapenko regains the lead
Unforced errors were the Latvian’s downfall throughout the encounter, and it was the ones which caused Ostapenko not to convert two break points in the third game as Williams earned the first service hold of the night. Nonetheless, the youngster was finally able to regain the lead after prevailing in a tight 14-point game, saving five game points along the way. It started to become a galore of service breaks but the world number seven managed to regain her lead eventually.
Williams produces comeback to take the first set 7-5
Ostapenko soon experienced a rush of adrenaline, managing to find some of her best first serves to finally be able to consolidate the break for a 5-3 lead, being just a game away from sealing the first set. However, the pressure seemed to have overwhelmed the 20-year-old as a gush of unforced errors started to come off her racquet, losing 17 of the next 24 points as Williams capitalized on her chances to steal the first set 7-5 after 57 minutes of play.
The American takes the early lead in the second set
A confident service hold at the start of the second set seemed to have gotten Williams going, looking comfortable out on the court. Everything was going in her favor as her opponent started to lose focus and got frustrated with herself after her unforced error count kept increasing without limits, allowing the seven-time Grand Slam champion to take the break in an extremely tight game, fending off four break points in the process.
Ostapenko fights back
A change in momentum saw Ostapenko rattle off three consecutive games, stopping Williams’ streak at six straight games. The Latvian was suddenly firing on all cylinders and did not miss anything but one poor error changed everything as she threw in some unforced errors to return on serve. The second set then went on serve until Williams earned a hard-fought match point in the tenth game when Ostapenko was serving to stay in the match at 4-5, but the American sent a forehand into the net as the Latvian stayed alive with a spirited display.
The match heads to a decider
After an exchange of service breaks, Williams brought the set into a tiebreak as she consistently attacked those really weak and vulnerable second serves of Ostapenko, hitting winners after winners off them. However, Ostapenko was able to regain her composure and utilized the angles on her groundstrokes, taking a one-sided tiebreak to send the match into a deciding set after more than two hours of play.
Nervy start to the final set for Ostapenko
Many thought that Williams would not be able to survive the marathon match, but she made a firing start to the decider as she came up with three consecutive winners for three break points in the opening game. However, Ostapenko returned to the drawing board and stuck with her original tactics, moving Williams all around the court and look for an opening. It proved to be effective as the Latvian youngster narrowly held for a 1-0 lead. The American was simply clinical on her serve, clinching the love service hold within moments.
Williams gets the breakthrough
Williams finally clinched the first, of many, break in the final set as she eventually converted her first break point out of eight attempts, taking the early lead. She looked on course to consolidate the break after winning her sixth consecutive point on serve with her service looking incredible, but Ostapenko started to find her groove and came up with powerful returns to break straight back.
Tight affair between the veteran and youngster
It turned out to be a break fest as it was a total of six consecutive service breaks, with neither of them able to defend their poor second serves well. It was a messy but entertaining match as both players were making unforced errors at the crucial moments. At the pivotal point of the set at 4-4, Ostapenko produced an incredible comeback from 0-40 down to hold her serve and stop the streak of breaks, holding serve for a 5-4 lead and she edged closer to the win.
Williams takes the unbelievable victory
Unexpectedly, Williams was able to stroll to a comfortable service hold to 15 having served with new balls, serving just her third ace in the process. Earning an incredible four break points in the next game, Williams was overpowered by Ostapenko’s baseline prowess as she failed to make an impact at the net, with the Latvian threatening to claim the important hold.
However, the former world number one made sure that her years of experience mattered as she kept her cool and finally managed to convert her chances, breaking for a 6-5 lead. Despite facing all the pressure and nerves, Williams found some of her best first serves, something she was unable to do throughout the match, and comfortably served out the match after an incredible three hours and 13 minutes of play.