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By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, Sept. 24 (Yonhap) -- No. 1 seed Jelena Ostapenko advanced to the final of the WTA Hana Bank Korea Open tennis tournament on Saturday, rallying past a fellow Grand Slam winner in a showdown between the two biggest attractions of the tournament.
Ostapenko, the 2017 French Open winner and the Korea Open champion from Latvia, defeated Emma Raducanu of Britain 6-4, 3-6, 3-0, at Olympic Park Tennis Center in Seoul, with Raducanu retiring in the third set with a left glute injury.
Ostapenko is the highest-ranked player this week at No. 19. Raducanu, the 2021 U.S. Open champion, was the only other major champion in action in Seoul.
The match lived up to its hype early, as the two stars played some quality tennis in the first set.
They were all knotted at 4-4 when Raducanu broke Ostapenko with a combination of her winners and a costly double fault by her opponent.
With Raducanu serving for the match and up 40-15, Ostapenko pushed the game to a deuce with consecutive backhand winners.
But Raducanu got the final two points with some strong serves that closed out the first set in her favor, 6-4.
After the players traded the first two games of the second set, Raducanu broke Ostapenko with a strong backhand winner for a 2-1 lead, only to have Ostapenko return the favor to pull even at 2-2.
Ostapenko then rode a couple of aces to take a 3-2 lead, before Raducanu called a medical timeout to treat her injury.
Raducanu looked limited upon returning to action, as Ostapenko promptly broke her to take a 4-2 lead.
Barely able to move along the baseline to chase down shots, Raducanu went down 5-2. She somehow held her serve in the next game to extend the set, but Ostapenko clinched the set in the next game to force the match into the deciding third set.
Ostapenko broke Raducanu to begin the final set and won the next game without dropping a point for a 2-0 lead.
Ostapenko got on a roll, breaking Raducanu again for a 3-0 lead. Raducanu then waved the white flag, as Ostapenko moved to the verge of her second career Korea Open title and her second WTA win of 2022.
Ostapenko had 40 winners against 29 unforced errors, while Raducanu hit 14 winners and 22 unforced errors.
Raducanu was playing in her first WTA semifinals since her stunning run to the U.S. Open title last year.
According to the tournament organizers, the Ostapenko-Raducanu match drew 7,000 fans, the largest ever for a semifinal contest in Korea Open history, dating back to 2004.
There have been two sellouts in Korea Open finals: the inaugural one in 2004, with Maria Sharapova winning the title, and the 2017 final where Ostapenko was crowned the champion.
In Sunday's final, Ostapenko will face No. 2 seed from Russia, Ekaterina Alexandrova, in her bid to become the first two-time champion of the Korea Open.
Alexandrova, world No. 24, holds a 4-2 edge in head-to-head meetings. The Russian knocked off the Latvian in the round of 16 at the 2018 Korea Open. Alexandrova has one WTA title this season.
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