Ostapenko: Consistency will make me dangerous

 - Danielle Rossingh

With a new coach in her corner, the former Roland-Garros champion is hoping for a resurgence this fortnight in Paris

Jelena Ostapenko, Roland Garros 2020, first round© Julien Crosnier/FFT

Former Roland-Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko is known for her spectacular “all or nothing” game style.

The Latvian’s powerful, high-risk game led to great success three years ago, when she thumped 54 winners and made as many unforced errors against Simona Halep of Romania to become the first unseeded player in the Open era to win the Roland-Garros title.

But in the past two years, Ostapenko has largely struggled on the big stage, while her ranking dropped to outside the top 80 in 2019.

“After I won it was a tough time,” Ostapenko said, after dropping just three games against American Madison Brengle in her opening round on Tuesday. “I had to get used to the pressure but now it's all gone.

“Finally I won my first match after two years of not winning a match here (in Paris). I'm really happy with that. Because first rounds are always tough, and it's never easy, and you get tight sometimes and you have to deal with the pressure. But I felt really well today on court. Hopefully I can keep it up.”

New partnership

To get back to the top, the 23-year-old has hired a new coach, Thomas Hogstedt and added a new dimension to her game: consistency.

During her post-match press conference, Ostapenko used the word “consistency” eight times. It’s the part of her game she has been working hard on to improve and which she believes can make her a top-five player and major winner once more.

“It’s just a matter of time,” she told rolandgarros.com. “I just need more consistency in my game, and just play aggressive, as I am playing right now. Then I think I am going to be a very dangerous player.” 

Shortly before the start of Roland-Garros, Ostapenko started working with Hogstedt, the Swede who coached Maria Sharapova of Russia to the 2012 title.

“We just started to work together, so not much we can do during a tournament,” she said. “But of course, he helped me and said some good things that I could use in the matches. He’s a very experienced coach and he can help me a lot.”

Although lockdown was tough in Latvia, it did allow Ostapenko to spend more time than usual on the clay.

“For a couple of months, we were stuck at home and the gyms were closed, the tennis courts were closed, everything was closed,” she said. “So I could just go for a run or just do something at home, which was the only option at that time. And then of course, when everything opened, I started to practice, but mostly, I was practising on clay because I didn’t want to go to the US and play the US swing. So I was hoping that these tournaments on clay would happen.” 

Ostapenko took the 2017 tournament by storm. A strong personality who trained as a ballroom dancer before focusing on tennis, she produced an incredible 245 winners to get to the final.

She may have to play some fearless tennis in her next round, where she will face the second-seeded Czech Karolina Pliskova.

“I played her many times, I kind of know how she plays,” said Ostapenko, who has won two of their five career meetings “I'm just going to try to enjoy the match and play my game. I know she serves very big, but in these conditions I think everything is totally different. So anything can happen this year.”