28 Oct 2017

Juvan downs top seed to reach Chengdu final

News Article

By Alex Sharp

Photo: Paul ZimmerKaja Juvan (SLO)

Kaja Juvan knocked out world No. 1 Whitney Osuigwe to surge into the ITF Junior Masters final and will vie to lift the trophy up against the unbeaten Marta Kostyuk.

Juvan repeated her 2016 Grade A Orange Bowl triumph over the American 75 61, whilst No. 2 seed Kostyuk boosted her title credentials with a 63 75 triumph over Maria Lourdes Carle.

“It feels great, especially after such a tough week,” said Juvan. “She’s such a good player, hits so much spin on the forehand. I did my best and I’m just very excited for the final.”

Osuigwe, who was undefeated in the round robin, sparked into life with a whipped forehand passing shot and then saved break point with a stunning last ditch forehand lob en route to a 3-2 advantage.

However, Juvan was keeping pace with the title favourite and drew gasps of amazement from the crowd, cutting a deft drop shot-lob combination.

The 16-year-old saved set point with an acute volley and provided a wall of defence on the baseline to tease the errors from Osuigwe for the crucial first set break.

“I still felt a little bit of pain in my ankle in the first set,” revealed the Slovenian, following a nasty fall in action on Friday. “I was too scared to move my feet enough, so I missed more shots.

“It was a bit different from the victory in the Orange Bowl, she put a lot of pressure on my backhand and I felt she was trying to make me run a lot because of my ankle.

“But then I loosened up, I stopped worrying about my ankle and everything went up.”

Juvan certainly played without concern in the second set. The world No. 9 pegged Osuigwe behind the baseline and wielded her wrecking ball groundstrokes, culminating in a clinical run of nine of the last 10 games to book a place in the trophy showpiece.

“I played Kostyuk yesterday, so I know what to expect there,” added Juvan. “I’m just happy to be there and will spend every minute on the court tomorrow being positive, feeling great, to try and win as many points as possible.”

Osuigwe is looking ahead despite falling to a first defeat in Chengdu. “I think today I came out pretty nervous,” reflected the 15-year-old.

“That doesn’t suit my game. In order to play that I need to be free and I didn’t manage to do that. She also played really well so credit to her.

“This tournament has been a lot of fun so far, hopefully I can come back next year. But I still have another match tomorrow,” added the American. “I’d love to play Marta again, I haven’t played her in a while. I also played Carle here and beat her, so I’m just going to have fun with it.”

Ahead of the evening semifinal, home favourite Wang Xin Yu enjoyed meeting Chinese tennis hero Li Na after a 75 61 victory over Elena Rybakina. As a result, Wang will face Maria Camila Osorio Serrano in the fifth-place play-off. The Colombian dispatched American Sofia Sewing in straight sets 64 63.

“I was trying to do that, especially today,” stated Kostyuk having powered into the final without dropping a set all week in Chengdu. “I was so happy with my start, even the volleys.”

The Australian Open champion had to dig deep and demonstrate all her versatility to oust the Argentine placed at a career-high ranking of No. 11.

After their opening round robin round clash, Osuigwe said that Carle is often underestimated, but she has proven herself a force to be reckoned with in Chengdu so far.

A lung-bursting rally at 3-2 illustrated the difficulty of stealing points from Carle, with both players retrieving lobs and Kostyuk pulling off an astonishing no-look scooping shot facing away from the court, before her opponent eventually forced the error.

Kostyuk’s cannonball winner off each groundstroke wing at 3-3 sent out a clear message of intent and that targeted aggression stole a break lead. Dominant on serve the 15-year-old swerved in a sublime second serve ace to head to the sit-down a set up.

Undeterred, Carle turned the tables in set two, utilising her renowned resolute defence and an inch perfect lob to sprint 3-0 into the ascendancy.

“I wasn’t smart tactically in the second set and was staying back too much,” admitted Kostyuk. “I was trying to not show any emotions but I wasn’t angry, it was more laughter as I was trying to not be negative. My mum is always telling me to focus and stop laughing on the court!”

The Ukrainian rediscovered her rhythm when a forehand winner, which was applauded by Carle, chalked up 2-4. Back came the Argentine, chasing down a Kostyuk dropshot to deflect a scintillating squash shot forehand down the line.

Facing a decider, Kostyuk sensed the time to pounce and rattled through five consecutive games to march into the final in rematch of Friday’s 62 76(1) victory facing Juvan.

“We always have very difficult, long matches,” stated Kostyuk, who leads their head-to-head 3-1. “Even yesterday, the first set was easy, but I knew she’d fight back and it would be hard.

“I’m looking forward to playing her again. It feels a bit strange as we only played on Friday, but I’m confident it was will be a great match.”