Friends and rivals to reunite in Adelaide International final

12 January 2024, by Richard Llewelyn Evans

Playing and not resting is the key to tournament success said Jelena Ostapenko ahead of the Adelaide International final, where she faces her good friend Daria Kasatkina.

Sixth seed Ostapenko brushed past Ekaterina Alexandrova late on Friday afternoon but Kasatkina was handed an impromptu day off after her semifnal opponent Jessica Pegula withdrew due to illness.

“It’s better to play some matches before the big event because it’s for sure better than just practising,” said Ostapenko. “You can have practice matches and stuff but it’s completely different and when you go on the court and you play a tournament, it’s a different thing.

“Especially I think it’s important to have some matches before going into the big tournament (Australian Open).”

Dealing with the 37-degree heat on Friday – the Saturday forecast is for cooler but still warm – is all part of the game said Ostapenko.

“Honestly at 10:30 in the morning (Friday) I went out for breakfast and when I was outside, it was already 34 degrees. It was like really warm, really hot. It’s really good that we are playing under the roof, it’s a bit colder. But still, you feel this heat. Sometimes it can be tricky in Australia with the heat.”

Kasatkina may not find her rest entirely beneficial Ostapenko suggested.

“It’s an advantage and also disadvantage maybe to have a couple of days with no matches, especially like I’m now every day playing a match and I am kind of in this rhythm.

“It’s up to the player. Everyone is different, it’s more individual. For someone it works, for someone it doesn’t work.

“For sure it’s going to be a tough match. She’s a great player, she’s in good form so I’m ready for a battle. I just need to do the things that I need to do and focus more on myself. I think it’s going to be a good match.”

Ostapenko, who leads Kasatkina 5-2 in their head-to- head record, has won the last three encounters is not expecting easy progress against the 26-year-old.

“I don’t go with that mentality. I go with the mentality that it’s going to be a tough battle and a tough match,” she said.

> VIEW: Adelaide International day order of play

The men’s final will see Jack Draper and Jiri Lehecka meet for the first time at ATP level, but Great Britain’s Draper said that he has faced his Czech opponent once before, a long, long time ago.

“We met in an under-14 tournament in Slovakia. I was the top seed and he was a wild card and he beat me,” said Draper. “I thought, ‘wow, this guy is going to be good one day’. So it’s great that we’re able to play in the final together.

“I have a lot of respect for him. I’ve been watching him play all week and he’s been playing great tennis. He’s a really strong player, not a lot of errors so it’s going to be a really tough battle tomorrow.”

Draper was speaking after dealing with a barrage of drop shots from the unorthodox Alexander Bublik in the semifinal, which he was thrilled to survive in two sets.

“You’re not too sure whether he’s going to be playing great or not, so you’ve just got to try and stay on him and that kind of mental pressure is very difficult to deal with,” he said. “It was tough conditions out there today. The ball is very lively, it’s tough to keep the ball in the court almost.”

Lehecka, who beat his friend Sebastian Korda in the first semifinal, promised he would be doing his homework by tuning into Draper against Alexander Bublik.

“I will definitely see some key moments and hopefully I will get a win tomorrow,” he said.

Like Draper, he is yet to win an ATP title but will be treating his big opportunity like any other match.

“I just try to be confident as I am right now, it’s just another match for me. Of course it will be a championship match but for me all the routines will be the same. I will not try to do anything differently.

“I think that it will be great match whoever wins but I will just try to keep focused on myself and try to do the right things.”

The crowd support at the revamped Drive could play its part in the final.

“I love the crowd,” said Draper. “That’s why I put in all my hard work for is to play in front of a lot of people and entertain. That’s what we are at the end of the day, we’re entertainers, so it’s good to be able to do that.”

Draper reached the final of his last ATP tour event, in Sofia, Bulgaria at the end of last year while Lehecka too made it through to his first ATP final in Winston-Salem in 2023