WTA Spotlight: Top 100 debutants - Dajana Yastremska

In 2018 she claimed her first title in her 11th main draw appearance and reached a career-high at No.60

by Alessandro Mastroluca
WTA Spotlight: Top 100 debutants - Dajana Yastremska

She not too ambitious for a juvenile. Dajana Yastremska completed her breakthrough season with her first WTA title, in Hong Kong, without losing a set. The Ukrainian, who reached a career-high ranking of No.60, won 40 of her 59 overall matches.

Almost unstoppable after she gained a lead, she had a 38-1 record after winning the first set but managed just two comeback victories after losing the opener. Inexperience burdened her in the closing stages as she owned a 1-9 win-loss record in tiebreaks and an 8-10 mark in deciding sets.

More effective and aggressive on serve, she registered the highest seasonal percentage of first and second serve points in her career in 2018 (65,9% and 48,2% respectively), she built her rank on hardcourt, where she played 31 matches sealing 21 victories.

Yastremska, who completed the season with a 23-11 against higher-ranked opponents, won her first professional title in 2016. That year she made her WTA main draw debut as a wild-card at Istanbul. One year later in the same venue, she won her first main draw match before reaching the first tour-level quarterfinal defeating former World No.9 Petkovic en route.

She rose more than 200 places in 2017 as she posted her first Top 200 season at No.189. This year she won her way through qualifying in Acapulco, Charleston, and Beijing and collected consistent results on ITF circuit. A clay season highlight was a runner-up finish at $100k Cagnes-sur-Mer (as a qualifier, l.Peterson), while on grass she fell at the first-round at Surbiton and Manchester but reached the second final of the year at $100k Ilkley (l.

Smitkova). In 2018, she completely turned the table in the second part of the season, since July when she claimed her third ITF pro title in Rome at the Circolo Antico Tiro a Volo club. As Jovica Ilic wrote, she "defeated her friend and a former doubles partner Anastasia Potapova 6-1 6-0 to claim her (second ITF title) at the $60,000 category.

Two years ago Potapova defeated Yastremska in junior Wimbledon final and they won the title in Prague last year together, playing for another big title on Sunday that was in Yastremska's hand from the very first game (...) Two winners from Yastremska kept her in the game and she sealed the deal after a poor drop shot from Potapova to celebrate the title and valuable 100 WTA points".

After that run, she reached the semifinals at $100k ITF tournament in Budapest (l. Alexandrova), both on clay, and made her top-100 debut on July 16, 2018. But the best was yet to come. She managed to reach her maiden final in Hong Kong, in just her 11th WTA main draw attempt.

Before that week, the 18-year-old's main draw record was 3-10, with her only previous quarterfinal coming in Istanbul last year. She played high-octane tennis to dismiss 7-5 6-4 No.40 Zhang Shuai in the semifinal. The fearlessness of youthful exuberance and incredible shot-making ability propelled her to drill 41 winners.

Her coach Olivier Jeunhomme, the technical director of the academy founded by Justine Henin who worked in the past with the Russian teenage Sofia Zhuk, could have not been more satisfied by her agility and her fluid, flat groundstrokes.

Naturally gifted, Yastremska looked eager to go for down-the-line winners from both sides also in the title-match, stunning a fatigued Qiang Wang 6-2 6-1 to climb well inside the Top 70 for the first time in her career.

In a rare sign of emotion, she double-faulted on her second match point at 5-1. She missed three chances to seal the match in a hard-fought final game and saved multiple break points before stamping a massive forehand winner to create the fourth, decisive chance to close out the victory.

She played the perfect final to become the second teenage WTA titlist of 2018 following Olga Danilovic at the Moscow River Cup, and the third Ukrainian champion this season after Elina Svitolina's titles in Brisbane and Dubai, and Lesia Tsurenko's victory in Acapulco.

"Yesterday, I felt very confident that I could win the title, but in the morning, I woke up and I felt a bit too nervous," Yastremska told the press, after the match. "I trusted myself that I can win, but I didn’t really get deep into those thoughts because I knew that when I go on court, I would forget about everything and just play point by point,” she said.

"The last game was the toughest game during all the tournament, because in your mind, you’re visualizing the way you’re winning, but at the same time, you have to stay right now, right here, playing this point, trying to be without any thoughts which can break your mind and your focus for the match point".

She finished the year with another special first time, as she dismissed 6-2 6-3 Garbine Muguruza to move at the quarter-finals at the BGL BNP Paribas Luxembourg Open and complete her first top-20 victory. The Ukrainian hit 11 winners against just 3 from Muguruza to dominate the opening set and came back from 2-0 and 3-1 down in the second set as the Spaniard lost her serve for the fourth and fifth time in the match.

She surrendered to Bencic in the semifinals. Her time has come. The future is now.