It will be an all-Russian final at the 2018 Tashkent Open with the resurgent Margarita Gasparyan going up against rising star 17-year-old Anastasia Potapova. Both players will be competing in their second career WTA final, and with both players ranked outside the top-100, the title would prove crucial to both of them. They are also playing doubles together as a pair this week, reaching the semifinals but fell in three sets.
Both Russians defeated higher-ranked players on Friday — Gasparyan defeated world number 94, Mona Barthel, having retrieved from a set down to triumph, while Potapova easily ousted Kateryna Kozlova in straight sets. Gasparyan was at the brink of defeat for successive days, while the 17-year-old looked unstoppable today, firing 25 winners in the quick contest to triumph.
Potapova storms into the final
After an even start which witnessed five consecutive service holds, it was Potapova who came out of the blocks firing on all cylinders and ultimately managed to secure the first breakthrough. Her groundstrokes were extraordinarily solid and consistent, leaving her more experienced opponent feeling helpless.
Within just 28 minutes of play, the Russian found herself leading the Ukrainian by a set. Kozlova began the second set in the best possible way; relying on Potapova’s unforced errors to jump out to an early lead, but was unfortunately pegged back as Potapova regained her momentum and seemed to be unstoppable. She rode on her confidence, flying to an efficient 6-2, 6-3 win after just 57 minutes of play.
Gasparyan recovers from the brink
The first set was dominated by the servers with no break points surfacing through the opening nine games of the encounter. Serving to stay in the set, Gasparyan wasted multiple game points and a slew of unforced errors allowed Barthel to take full advantage; and the German soon took down the opening frame with a 6-4 scoreline.
Having won all her first-serve points in the first set, Barthel began the second set by winning just one of seven first-serves. Within a blink of an eye, she found herself trailing by a double-break deficit and Gasparyan was cleaning the lines and finding her range with her power and consistency.
Zooming through the second set 6-1, Gasparyan seemed well on course for the emphatic victory after opening up a formidable 4-1 lead in the deciding set. A narrow service hold was all needed for Barthel to regain the belief in herself — and she rattled off four consecutive games and earned the golden opportunity to serve out the match.
Nerves definitely affected the German, having thrown in two double-faults while serving for the match. However, the pressure seemed like nothing for the Russian, who had to fend off two nervy break points at 5-5 before breaking serve yet again to close out the impressive win.
Looking ahead: the final showdown
Gasparyan and Potapova had faced off once — which occurred this year at an ITF event held in Russia. Potapova triumphed in two tight sets, but with a WTA title at stake here, things could turn out differently. The more experienced Russian had already tasted success on the main tour in the past before injuries derailed her progress, while the youngster had reached her maiden final this year as well.
No matter the outcome of the final, Potapova is slated to make her debut in the top-100 of the rankings, and thus almost securing a booth at the 2019 Australian Open as she has no points to defend through the remainder of the year. Gasparyan now re-enters the top-200, while a title would send her back into the top-150.
It would be an interesting match-up considering the top form both players are in currently, and one would wonder if playing doubles together would help them know each other’s playing style better.
Many thanks to Jimmie48 Tennis Photography for his pictures!