World number five Jelena Ostapenko finally got her 2018 season going after a slow start to the year, booking her spot in the final of the Miami Open with a solid display against the surprise package in Danielle Collins, the qualifier who was exposed to the limelight after an incredible North American hardcourt swing.
Collins, who is slated to reach a career-high ranking of 53 on next Monday, had a set point in the first set but failed to convert her chances as the Latvian fought back to claim the win in straight sets, setting up a blockbuster meeting with world number 13 Sloane Stephens in the Championship match. Hitting 32 winners, Ostapenko will look to break new grounds in her career with a win in her first-ever Premier Mandatory final.
Ostapenko comes back from the brink, takes the first set in a tiebreak
It was the perfect start Collins would have wanted as she found her comfort zone on the court especially when Ostapenko started gifting free points with her errors. Double-faults proved costly as the American looked flawless at the baseline, earning three break points in the opening game. Nonetheless, the world number five was able to find her groove during the crucial moments, firing impressive winners to narrowly hold onto her service game.
Another marathon game surfaced on Ostapenko’s serve but it was the Latvian who once again held her nerves and stayed calm, handling the incoming surge from Collins well. Ostapenko’s patience finally paid off as errors started flying everywhere from the American, with the world number five sealing the break with a stunning forehand down-the-line winner.
Inconsistency on the backhand seemed to be affecting Ostapenko as she was broken straight back before a series of comfortable service holds followed. Being increasingly aggressive on the return, Collins forced errors out of her opponent and the huge upset looked plausible after she broke to love for a 6-5 lead, alongside the chance to serve out the set.
However, the pressure overwhelmed the underdog and Ostapenko stepped up her play, sending the set into a tiebreak while saving a set point in the process. The Latvian started to fire on all cylinders, powering to a 4-0 lead and she never looked back as she ultimately claimed the one-sided tiebreak 7-1, sealing the set after an hour of play with a powerful ace.
Ostapenko strolls through the second set and earns the win
Certainly, Collins’ confidence took a drastic dip especially after losing the opening set and she had no answers to Ostapenko’s commanding play with the world number five controlling the proceedings. Riding on her momentum, the Latvian looked comfortable on the court and was firing winners at ease, and Collins slowly faded away with the deficit getting larger.
The match seemed to be over when the local favorite conceded two break points in the fifth game, but her commendable fighting spirit saw her fighting through the tough game even though her hopes to produce a comeback were slim, while Ostapenko started getting ambitious which resulted in countless errors.
Nonetheless, the higher-ranked player regained her composure and easily held onto her service games, not facing a break point throughout the second set. Serving to stay in the match at 3-5 down, Collins crumbled mentally as Ostapenko was simply just too good, coming up with a passing forehand winner to seal her spot in the win.