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Jelena Ostapenko vs Agnieszka Radwanska WTA Eastbourne tennis live: Ostapenko targets first victory over rusty Radwanska in quarterfinals

Hannah Wilks in WTA Tour 27 Jun 2018
  • Jelena Ostapenko faces former champion Agnieszka Radwanska in the quarterfinals of the Nature Valley International
  • Ostapenko vs Radwanska tennis is live from Eastbourne on Thursday at 11am BST
Jelena Ostapenko

Rising star Jelena Ostapenko takes on former Wimbledon finalist Agnieszka Radwanska, newly returned from injury, for a place in the semifinals of the Nature Valley International in Eastbourne on Thursday.

Former Eastbourne champion Agnieszka Radwanska plays some of her best tennis on grass – can she do so again to beat Jelena Ostapenko as they meet in the quarterfinals of the Nature Valley International in Eastbourne?

A quarterfinalist on grass in Birmingham in 2016 when she beat Petra Kvitova before falling to Madison Keys, Ostapenko had failed to win back-to-back matches in Eastbourne on her first two appearances, losing to Dominika Cibulkova in 2016 and Johanna Konta in 2017. But she returns to Eastbourne in 2018 having now made a Wimbledon quarterfinal last year, beating Elina Svitolina before losing to Venus Williams, so she knows she can play on grass at the highest level – not that belief in her own game is a quality that Ostapenko is usually deficient in.

But the Latvian does have plenty to prove, and plenty of energy to bring, when it comes to the grass-court season this year. It’s been over a year since Ostapenko’s sensational run to the French Open title, and the Latvian has cushioned her ranking well enough that her failure to defend her Roland Garros points has only taken her down to world no. 12, thanks partly to her run to the Miami Open final in March, when she beat Elina Svitolina and Petra Kvitova to make the title match at the Premier Mandatory event before losing to Sloane Stephens. But clay was not all Ostapenko would have wished it to be. She was a quarterfinalist in Stuttgart and Rome, but lost in the first round of Madrid and, most significantly, crashed out of the French Open in the very first round at the hands of Kateryna Kozlova.

Ostapenko will always be a streaky player and she certainly remains a very young one (she just turned 21, a milestone she celebrated, judging by her social media activity, extensively in her native Latvia). But an early defeat at the French Open does mean that she comes into the grass-court season with plenty of energy to spare, and so far she’s made good use of it in Eastbourne, beating Kaia Kanepi 6-3, 7-5 before getting her first ever back-to-back wins at Devonshire Park with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Mihaela Buzarnescu.

The Romanian, whose rise has been so meteoric this year and who was a semifinalist in Birmingham last week, struggled with a shoulder problem that hampered her serve and didn’t play her best but Ostapenko was nevertheless well satisfied with the win.

‘She has been playing well this season,’ Ostapenko said. ‘I played against her in Doha and learned a lot from that match. I prepared well for this one, and tried to play aggressively today.
‘I prepared so well for the match. I know how she plays and I knew I had to play my best. I went on court and showed what I can do.’

Ostapenko’s quarterfinal opponent had an even easier passage into the quarterfinals – Agnieszka Radwanska didn’t have to play at all on Thursday due to the withdrawal of scheduled opponent Petra Kvitova due to a hamstring injury she first felt in the Birmingham final.

It’s doubtful whether Radwanska will have felt the withdrawal as a blessing, however. This is the Pole’s first week playing since missing almost the entire clay-court season. A back injury, which led to a hip injury, saw Radwanska retire when trailing Donna Vekic in the first round of the TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Cup in late April and she missed two months of the season, including the French Open – ending her streak of 47 consecutive Grand Slam main-draw appearances.

The injury had clearly taken its toll on Radwanska’s season before that – she made quarterfinals in Auckland and Brisbane in January, but had struggled for wins since, with her ranking sliding out of the top 30 as a result after a poor season by her high standards in 2017. It’s a long way from the days when Radwanska was a consistent top-10 player, ranked as high as world no. 2 in 2012, the year she made her solitary Grand Slam final at Wimbledon, losing to Serena Williams in three sets.

An Eastbourne champion in 2008 and runner-up to Belinda Bencic in 2015, Radwanska – who hasn’t lost before the fourth round at Wimbledon since 2011’s shock second-round loss to Petra Cetkovska – has always played some of her best tennis on grass, which suits her crafty, varied, all-court game. And she certainly didn’t look too rusty in her opening two matches at Eastbourne, beating Timea Babos 6-3, 6-1 before saving two match points in a fine 5-7, 7-6(4), 6-0 victory over Daria Gavrilova.

The match against Ostapenko in the quarterfinals promises to be a fascinating contrast of style, with the hammer blows of the Latvian’s powerful groundstrokes and all-out attack coming up against Radwanska’s remarkable ability to scramble and defend, absorb and redirect pace and use an enormous variety of shot to throw off her opponents. In their only previous meeting, in New Haven in 2016, it was Radwanska who came out on top 7-5, 6-1 – but the Pole is very much lacking in match practice and if Ostapenko has a good serving day, it’s difficult to see what Radwanska will be able to do about it. 

‘I've played her a couple of times. I know how she plays, so it's going to be a tough match, but I'm going to prepare for it,’ Ostapenko said.

Ostapenko vs Radwanska quarterfinal tennis is live from Eastbourne on Thursday at 11am BST

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Jelena Ostapenko vs Agnieszka Radwanska WTA Eastbourne tennis live: Ostapenko targets first victory over rusty Radwanska in quarterfinals

Can Jelena Ostapenko power past Agnieszka Radwanska, newly returned from two months on the bench, into the WTA Eastbourne semifinals? Nature Valley International tennis live from Eastbourne

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