After her fairytale run in Paris, she is the one to watch. A 20-year-old girl coming from Latvia who hits forehands faster than the ATP World Tour number one is the new women's tennis star. Jelena Ostapenko is relaxed, confident and seeded coming to Wimbledon this year, a tournament she had the opportunity to win as a junior and she loves a lot.
Notable results to date
Ostapenko started the year by reaching the semifinals in Auckland, retiring in the third set to Lauren Davis. In the first slam of the year, the Australian Open, she reached the third round of a Slam for the first time in her career, losing a thrilling match to world number five Karolina Pliskova, after having a massive lead in the final set. February and March were definitely not her months, as she lost openers to Dubai and St. Petersburg failing to defend her finalist points from Doha. Having received a major blow in the rankings, she managed to make the quarterfinals in Acapulco but she failed miserably in Indian Wells and Miami winning only one match in both the events.
Entering the clay court season she partnered with WTA player Anabel Medina Garrigues and the success was immediate. She made the finals of the Premier event in Charleston beating Caroline Wozniacki and Australian Open semifinalist Mirjana Lucic-Baroni only to fall short to fellow rising star Daria Kasatkina. She backed it up with semifinals in Prague and by qualifying in both Rome and Stuttgart, all before the French Open epic.
Ostapenko's Roland Garros run was nothing less than impressive. She beat an Olympic Gold medalist, a slam champion and a former world number one to make the semifinals. After fighting past Timea Bacsinszky in the semifinals she pulled off the huge upset in the final beating Madrid champion and Rome finalist Simona Halep to win the title. From a 47 ranked rising star, she wrote her name in the history books by becoming the first Latvian to win a Grand Slam title.
Currently, she is preparing in Eastbourne and after winning a three-set second round match against Carla Suarez Navarro she is set to play Johanna Konta.
This may surprise the ones who were not aware of Ostapenko's career before the French Open, but grass is her favorite surface. She actually is a recent junior Wimbledon champion, in 2014, and she beat Petra Kvitova last year in Birmingham. Her first slam main draw match was at the Championships and it was a straightforward win over then ninth seed Carla Suarez Navarro in 2015. Next year, she failed in the first round to Kiki Bertens, but as aforementioned, she had strong runs in the warm-up events.
The Latvian's love for the lawns should not shock the ones who watched her dismantle her adversaries en route to her first Grand Slam title. She hits the ball hard, she is not afraid of missing and she is definitely one with attitude. In the fast grass courts, she is furious and the balls that leave her racket are flying. However, slice tricks are among the few things that can frustrate the feisty 20-year-old and set her out of rhythm, especially in the low bouncing grass. Anyway, her fearless shots are made for the surface and if she is ready mentally and physically she will not be stopped easily by any player in the draw.
She is only 20 years old, coming to Wimbledon after the biggest moment of her short career. She needs some time to settle down, to deal with the fuss around her name and work again to repeat this result. There have been a lot of players that lost track after their first big success, some even retired, some struggled to win matches. None should expect Ostapenko to produce these wonders again in such a short period of time. Nevertheless, whoever watched her in the French Open fortnight knows that Ostapenko is not messing around. Even if she gets knocked out early, despite being seeded 13th, it should not be a shock considering past cases. She is here to stay.