Ostapenko is on a mission to regain the form that earned her a maiden Grand Slam title at the French Open in 2017
By Raz Mirza
Last Updated: 01/10/20 9:09pm
Three years ago Jelena Ostapenko lit up the French Open with a brand of tennis which made her a Grand Slam champion. Now she’s back in the limelight and seeking glory in Paris once again.
The Latvian, with booming groundstrokes, became one of the most surprising major champions in tennis history when she lifted the French Open trophy days after her 20th birthday in 2017.
Her run to that title was characterised by ruthless ball striking and no margin for error hitting, which she managed to sustain for seven thrilling matches. But she has found repeating the feat that much more difficult.
Ostapenko found the pressure and weight of expectation too much in the years after her success in Paris and she dropped outside the world’s top 80.
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Now 23, Ostapenko is back up to 43 in the world and, if she can maintain the form that saw her topple second seed Karolina Pliskova with an emphatic 6-4 6-2 victory in the second round, she will be a danger to all over the next week and a half.
She said: “It’s hard to compare because that was three years ago and I was fearless, nobody really knew me, but now players get to know me more. They know how I can play. They know how to play probably against me.
“Of course it’s in my memory because it’s the biggest win of my career so far, but I have to move forward and the world doesn’t stop with winning only one Grand Slam.
“Of course I want to achieve more and I want to be back in the top five, top 10. Step by step. That’s what I’m working on, my consistency. Still being an aggressive player, I think it can bring me a lot of wins, but consistency probably in my game is the key.”
I’m just trying to get back and get my consistency. I think that is the key to bring me a good result.
Ostapenko feels that consistency is the key for her in her aim of finding Grand Slam winning form, which the Latvian feels is more than achievable.
She continued: “I think now I’m in good form, and obviously these two matches I played really well. Also couple of matches in Strasbourg I played well.
“I’m slowly getting back in this form and playing some matches in this rhythm again. But it’s hard to compare with 2017.
“As I said, it was like three years ago, and I was much younger and also I was fearless. Nobody knew me. But now it’s a little bit different. I’m just trying to get back and get my consistency. I think that is the key to bring me a good result.”
Ostapenko produced plenty of winners against Pliskova – 27 in total – but she was also content to stay in rallies, pulling her opponent around the baseline and throwing in several successful drop shots.
“I think I was playing good today,” said Ostapenko. “I knew it was going to be a tough match, so I was trying to be very focused all match. Just playing my game.
“Also just trying to keep the ball in play to make sure I’m not missing and making too many unforced errors. But when I had the chance I was going for it.”
Ostapenko will play Spain’s world No 87 Paula Badosa Gibert for a place in the fourth round on Saturday.