Eastbourne Tennis: All-Baltic women's final set to thrill crowds
Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko and Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit will meet in an all Baltic women’s final while young talents Lorenzo Sonego and Alex de Minaur will face off for the men’s title at the LTA’s Viking International Eastbourne.
Former French Open champion Ostapenko is through after defeating Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina 6-4, 6-1 in an hour and 30 minutes.
Ostapenko progresses to her first final of the season and will be looking to become only the third wildcard to win the title in Eastbourne after Julie Halard-Decugis in 2000 and Monica Seles in 1996.
Rybakina called for the trainer at the end of the first set and appeared to be suffering with some lower back pain.
She continued to play on but couldn’t find her level as Ostapenko blasted through the second set dropping only a single game as she secured her place in the final.
“I'm really happy with the way I’ve played this week, and every match I played better and better,” she said.
“It's been a while without finals, so I'm really happy to be in a final and looking forward to tomorrow's match.
“It's actually nice to have a Baltic final, because we’re not such big countries, but still have good players, so it's nice. Anett I know since juniors and we’ve been playing a lot, like maybe not so many matches but, I mean, we practice sometimes together, in juniors, and played even doubles. So I know her quite well.”
In Saturday’s final Ostapenko will play World No.27 Kontaveit, who came through her match against Camilla Giorgi after the Italian was forced to retire with a left thigh injury.
Kontaveit – who defeated former US Open champion Bianca Andreescu this week – will be looking to win her second career title on grass, having lifted the trophy at ‘s-Hertogenbosch in 2017.
It was evident that that Italian qualifier was in some discomfort and despite finally managing to break back in the ninth game, she called an end to the match at 5-4.
“Of course it's never the way you'd want to win,” said Kontaveit. “It was a very close nine games, and I was very surprised and very sorry for her that she had to retire.”
“I think I have played really well here and had some very good wins. I'm definitely feeling more confident now.”
The men’s final will see Australian Alex de Minaur take on Italia’s Lorenzo Sonego in a clash between the second and third seeds.
De Minaur hasn’t dropped a set all week on his way to the final and once again showed his class in a 6-3, 7-6 (2) win over Korea’s Soonwoo Kwon.
The World No.77 was on a fantastic run to the semi-finals, coming into the tournament as a lucky loser, and caused the Australian a few problems, breaking him twice in the match. But the cinch Championships semi-finalist never looked in any real trouble and proved just a level too high on the day.
“I'm very happy to be playing another final, playing some great tennis on the grass,” said De Minaru, “I really am enjoying myself out there, and hopefully I can play well tomorrow and take it home. I mean, that's the plan.”
“I have been playing well, been getting confidence from every match I have won, and I have had a lot of matches under my belt. So all those things kind of helped each other, and I'm able to go out there and play some good tennis.”
“I played a quality opponent today and did what I needed to do. We've got one more match tomorrow against, you know, a hell of a competitor who's obviously already won a title on grass, so it's going to be incredibly tough. It's another challenge for me, another chance for me to go out there and have a swing and do the best I can.”
Sonego on the other hand came through a three set battle against another lucky loser into the tournament – Max Purcell.
Purcell’s dream week has seen him defeat the likes of Gael Monfils and Andreas Seppi, but couldn’t get over the line against a strong performance from Sonego. After a minor dip in form in the second set, the Italian came out all guns blazing in the decider, winning 89% of points on his first serve to wrap up a 6-1, 4-6, 6-1 win in an hour and 37 minutes.
“I'm really happy, because this my second final here on grass,” said Sonego. “I like play here. I like the condition, because I can do something different. I can go on the net, I can do something with the serve, I'm more offensive. I wait for the final, and I want to do the same tomorrow.”
“We have only three tournaments on grass, and it's not easy, the tennis here. But my tennis is good for this surface because I serve good. I can do something with the serve. And if I return better, I can do a great tournament every week here.”
In the men’s doubles final, Joe Salisbury and Rajeev Ram were defeated for the third time this year by the seemingly unstoppable Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic 6-4, 6-3. The Croatian pair has now won seven titles already this season.
SF - A. Kontaveit (EST) d. [Q] C. Giorgi (ITA) 54 RET - Left Thigh Injury
SF - [WC] J. Ostapenko (LAT) d. E. Rybakina (KAZ) 64 61
SF -  L.Sonego (ITA) d. [LL] M. Purcell (AUS) 61 75
SF -  A. De Minaur (AUS) d. S. Kwon (KOR) 63 76(2)