Ostapenko, Really? Yeah Really

While it may come as a surprise that 20-year-old Jelena Ostapenko is in the finals of Roland Garros, by way of today’s three set win over Timea Bacsinszky, the young Latvian has shown consistent career results in the glamour events.

Ostapenko won the 2014 Wimbledon junior event. In 2015 she beat no. 9 seed Carla Saurez Navarro at Wimbledon, losing only two games.

Last year the bubbly teen continued her gradual ascent by reaching the semifinals of the Wimbledon mixed doubles with partner Olivier Marach (lost to Kontinen and Watson the eventual champions).

Also in 2016 at Aegon, Ostapenko beat Petra Kvitova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

This year Ostapenko began working with two time Roland Garros doubles champ Anna Medina Garrigues and the partnership paid quick dividends. Ostapenko made the third round in Melbourne and served for the match vs Karolina Pliskova but lost in three sets.

She rebounded to win the St Petersburg doubles title with Rosolska.

The best singles result of Ostapenko’s career came in April in Charleston where she beat Wozniacki and Lucic Baroni to make the finals where she lost to Daria Kasatkina. This effort placed Ostapenko into the WTA top fifty.

In Paris Ostapenko has rolled all the way to the final and is just one win away from making tennis history as the first Latvian to win a Grand Slam singles title (Larisa Savchenko Neiland won the French Open and Wimbledon in 1989 and 1991 and represented Latvia though she was born in Ukraine).

But in Ostapenko’s path will be no 3 seed and former Roland Garros finalist Simona Halep, who showed incredible defensive skills and retrieving abilities in dispatching Pliskova in three sets.






  • Andrew Miller · June 12, 2017 at 5:26 pm

    Pete Bodo said the “wta landscape is changing dramatically” on ESPN tennis. And he’s right. Even though Serena Williams and her sister dueled for the Australian Open championship, the French Open was anything but a celebration of veterans, and Serena Williams has won two out of the last seven slams, with five going to Pennetta, Kerber, Muguruza, and Ostapenko. It’s time to say it: the wta is in complete upheaval and this is what parity looks like. There’s no such disorder on the men’s side, no refreshing new champions. I don’t know if there will be this year. But I do believe that the wta side, where it’s a rotating cast of characters in an unruly unpredictable drama, will be the ATP tour in the near future.
    I know that this is a rehash of my big four no more mantra. But unless the results on the wta start favoring Sharpie and Azarenka and Kvitova and Kuznetsova and Venus Williams, it’s the honest truth for the wta. And I don’t see how the ATP tour can possibly overcome father time.

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 12, 2017 at 9:20 pm

    I might be tempted to wager on Federer and Nadal to double bagel Father Time. Father Time has a weak backhand and no second serve. These two titans have rewritten the history book and they aint even close to being done. Father Time could get bashed back to the Futures 🙂

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 12, 2017 at 9:22 pm

    Ostapenko looks like she is quite comfortable in the spotlight and enjoying it all. She apparently is built for being a superstar. The best thing about her is how she absolutely loves playing those big pressure cooker matches. She loves to play tennis. A lot of top players don't feel the joy that she does. There is actually no pressure now – from this point on she is a GS champion forever. The rest is all gravy.

  • Andrew Miller · June 12, 2017 at 11:15 pm

    Myskina. Majoli. Ivanovic. Muguruza. Welcome, Jelena?

    Hey I just don’t think on the basis of one tournament, the only one Ostapenko has won, that she will therefore enter any tournament anywhere as the favorite. If you’re going to go big you might as well win a slam and again, unbelievable stuff. But as far as this being a sign it’s as much a sign of the softness of the wta tour as it is a welcoming of a tough young player to the slam champion club.

    Sorry to throw as much ice water as I can on this one. As much as I appreciate Ostapenko’s courage and her takedown of Miss Halep, the perfect matchup for Ostapenko, I don’t think she could possibly follow up on this one in the immediate future.

    But like everything on the wta tour, where we saw Elena Vesnina win a masters title – Elena Vesnina! Lovely player. Even more of an ace of a doubles player, a real champion. But this has been a wacky year on the wta.

    It’s anyone can win anything out there. Ostapenko is as likely to win Wimbledon as to stub her toe and be put for four months. The wta tour has been that odd.

  • catherine · June 13, 2017 at 2:13 am

    Andrew – I agree overall. I don’t think Ostapenko will win another GS this year. May be wrong, but you’re also right in saying Halep was the ‘perfect matchup’ for her. You could bet on Simona folding. And Jelena is a known quantity now. That’s one thing the spotlight does for you.
    She’s not a mature player – she’ll meet a mature player soon and it’ll be over and out.

    And Angie did indeed crash and burn but the one thing she never did and will never do is win at RG 🙂
    Won a few in between though.

  • catherine · June 13, 2017 at 2:58 am

    I’m going to make a comment which will seem really grudging and mean, however, I don’t care.

    When Simona lost in Paris. and remember she lost, Mr Tignor at tennis.com hailed her losing speech as the most wonderful thing that happened at RG this year. Pretty much.

    Then Darren Cahill kicks in with a tweet saying this speech was the one thing Simona has done in the last couple of months that ‘I’m most proud of. Big hugs.’

    I’ve heard an awful lot of losing speeches and Simona’s rated a B+ . What was she supposed to say ? ‘Jelena I can’t stand you and I’m sorry you won’ ?
    Simona’s a modest polite person and showed admirable generosity but there’s something marshmallow, softcentred about the whole business that really makes me wonder if there are any truly tough achievements ahead for Cahill/Halep.

    Sloppy public pronouncements give a sloppy impression.
    Simona lost because she didn’t play well enough in the crunch. She didn’t use her tennis brain. If it seems she gets rewarded for that then it’s bad psychology.

    It’s her play that matters, not her speeches.

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 13, 2017 at 8:04 am

    Catherine: Ostapenko will only get better with the confidence gained by being a GS champion.

  • catherine · June 13, 2017 at 8:28 am

    Yes, probably. I only meant that may very well not be this year.
    And you have to bear in mind those players, Muguruza for one, who don’t seem to have made the improvement we might have expected after a GS win.

  • Andrew Miller · June 13, 2017 at 9:04 am

    Inevitability doesn’t exist. As Agassi said, probably best quote in the sport in forty years, if it were as easy as phoning a win in…it isn’t.

  • Andrew Miller · June 13, 2017 at 9:11 am

    Time for a potshot at Simona. I actually thought she might fold in the final because she has shown an aptitude for it in several of the finals she played this year. That’s why I said I couldn’t call it. She has shown a talent in the last few years for playing champion tennis before a final rather than saving her best for last. If she wants to get her name etched in that trophy she’s going to have to save her best for the last two sets of any final and try some things such as exhausting her opponent in set one (given that if there’s a remote chance of a player coming back in a high stakes final against Simona, she’ll let them back in the match!).

    No, no way am I going to say Ostapenko! No. Not yet, not after so little

  • Jimmy the Gent · June 13, 2017 at 9:11 am

    down goes scoop – what happened in your match ?

    was your opponent a softer pusher, cheater, killer ??

  • Andrew Miller · June 13, 2017 at 9:15 am

    Kvitova’s return saved the French.

  • catherine · June 13, 2017 at 9:25 am

    Andrew –
    That’s maybe why I found Tignor’s and Cahill’s comments so irritating, not only because they seemed irrelevant on the one hand and a trifle infantalising on the other (‘big hugs’ – oh please) but both bypassed Simona’s persisting weakness in big matches – finishing.
    She needs to fix this technical/mental problem. Start thinking about and trying alternatives if she’s in a jam 3rd set.

    If she does fix it she’ll be winning a GS, absolutely no doubt, but that won’t happen if she gets used to feeling comfortable and ‘loved’ as a runner-up.

  • catherine · June 13, 2017 at 9:28 am

    Don’t get Kvitova reference – Brave return but she only lasted 2 matches.
    Were you being sarcastic ? Sounds as though a Czech saved the French nation 🙂

  • Andrew Miller · June 13, 2017 at 12:14 pm

    Yes Halep must play her best in the final set win or lose.

    No I don’t have faith in Jelena. Given the topsy turvy chaos of wta results I wouldn’t be surprised if Sevastova wins Wimbledon.

    As for who save the French it wasn’t Halep and her hug. That’s called a nice gesture. And her frank display is always welcome. Just that it wasn’t even close to the best moment of the tournament for the women’s tour.

    I thought Kvitova coming back is a nice moment for the wta. Attacked in her home and severely injured here she is. That’s a good thing.

  • catherine · June 13, 2017 at 12:57 pm

    Well – that’s what astonished me – that anyone could say Simona’s speech was the best moment of the women’s tournament. Strange priorities.Speeches don’t matter.

    I suppose if anyone ‘saved’ the French it was Jelena but I’m with you on expecting nothing much else from her this year.
    Kvitova at W’don ? – would be wonderful but not likely. Those injuries take a long time.

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 13, 2017 at 2:01 pm

    Speeches do matter Catherine. Players can really do a great job with their speeches and gain huge fanbase additions by doing a good job. Li Na and Cibulkova come to mind. Hopefully Halep will gain a new base of fans and they will help to push her across the finish line in future.

  • catherine · June 13, 2017 at 2:36 pm

    Speeches are quickly forgotten. They don’t take the place of results. And up until quite recently in tennis history we had no speeches on court from anyone. And no lack of interest in players and no lack of fans.

    Where’s Cibulkova now ?

    We’ll probably never agree on this. I’d rather have a player who delivers on court than one who’s a magician with the microphone.
    The two don’t necessarily go together.
    And fans are fickle 🙂

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 13, 2017 at 2:59 pm

    Li Na became a worldwide crowd favorite after her finalist speeches. Cibulkova also but not to the extent that Na did.

  • Andrew Miller · June 13, 2017 at 4:10 pm

    Monica Puig might win Wimbledon. I’m not joking, the wta speedometer is not working these days. On the men’s tour you can at least say well, 100 percent or 90 % chance that big four plus Stan Wawrinka will win the next slam. 90 percent chance, some uncertainty but not much given only Cilic and Del Potro have managed a slam title outside of the other guys in the past 11 years, or 44 slams.

    On the wta tour, again, it’s five of the last seven slams won by someone whose name isn’t Williams or Sharapova or Azarenka or Kuznetsova. Literally anyone, Coco or Safarova or Siniakova or ANYONE on the wta tour could win a slam at Wimbledon.

    I appreciate the love for Ostapenko, and she will now have a real fan base to make up for some of the pressure coming her way. But to say, well, here she is, she’s arrived! Is to underestimate the chaos on the wta tour.

    All the players under the top four players have realized it’s a free for all. You’re going to have upsets a plenty and it could be Konta willing her first Wimbledon — or Konjuh! It could be anyone.

  • catherine · June 13, 2017 at 4:32 pm

    It’s England – if Kvitova plays XYZ in the Wimbledon final this year then her opponent needn’t unpack her racquet bag – and that includes Konta 🙂

  • Andrew Miller · June 14, 2017 at 12:49 pm

    Scoop’s right on Ostapenko. Even with Halep playing doormat in the final 1.5 sets and counting on her opponent to fold (awful strategy), and even with a somewhat soft draw for Ostapenko, she pulled off this slam with authority. And Halep blew her chance, I have no idea if she’ll have another. The way Ostapenko played, she will put herself in position to make more of these high profile matches.
    So, I’m saying she’s not to be underestimated and won this title with a lot of margin for error, which us the way to do it. Constant pressure, going for your shots as your opponent tightens up. That’s big playing.

    As for the future I have no idea. I tend to think that no, this is not a coronation at all. But it is a little scary to think that maybe there’s more on Ostapenko’s racquet in this watered down wta tour, that she has a big opportunity to write her name into the history books as something more than Muguruza, Ivanovic, Majoli, etc.

  • Andrew Miller · June 14, 2017 at 12:53 pm

    (assuming Kerber plays poorly, Sharapova never gets the hang of the tour again, Azarenka doesn’t either, and Kvitova has no expectations, and Serena stays off the tour until mid 2018). I doubt Ostapenko will have the run of the tour, and i believe others will have a say here who want their first slam, but she might.

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