Svitolina tested early, yet recovers
Jelena Ostapenko's title defence ends in the first round against Ukraine's Kateryna Kozlova.
Kateryna Kozlova sent shockwaves through the women’s draw on Sunday evening when she ousted reigning Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko 7-5 6-3.
“Obviously, it feels great. I didn't expect anything from the match. I just went to enjoy every moment on the court because I was not sure if I will be able to play in French Open,” said Kozlova, having cracked cartilage in her right knee at Indian Wells, returning to the practice courts just four weeks ago.
“I was just happy to be on court and competing. So it was very important for me and in the end, the result comes up and it's just amazing.”
The 24-year-old laughed when she saw the first round draw. “I didn't expect that I will play against the defending champion, but I accept this. That’s a Grand Slam and this is life. What I can do? I cannot change this. I just have to go on court and do my best. As I said, I was really happy to be here. That's why I couldn't complain, today was just special.”
In just a second French Open main-draw showing, the Ukrainian was the far more consistent competitor on Court Philippe-Chatrier and capitalised upon the fifth seed’s 48 unforced errors.
Kozlova, ranked at world No.66, headed onto court having beaten Ostapenko in their two past encounters.
The only previous French Open holder to fall at the first hurdle of a title defence was Anastasia Myskina back in 2005.
Thirteen years later, Ostapenko was on the ropes from the off.
Kozlova cut two consecutive drop shots to consolidate an early break, with Ostapenko struggling for consistency on serve and off both groundstroke wings.
Ostapenko fought back from 2-4 to level the scoreboard for 5-5, but wilted under a barrage of shots from Kozlova to surrender the opener.
The Latvian instantly posted a 2-0 lead with authoritative play, which seemed to signal a momentum shift.
However, Kozlova kept applying the pressure, playing with a sense of freedom and teased the errors from Ostapenko’s racket.
“I came on court that I have to be free. I have to play every point, exactly, that I have nothing to lose,” continued Kozlova. “But still, to be on centre court, first round, after two and-a-half months without matches, it was still a little bit tough and nervous, but I think I managed well. It helped me a lot that I didn't have so much pressure behind me.”
The title-holder’s final backhand rippled the net and Kozlova shook her head in disbelief at a maiden top-30 victory and a ticket into the second round to face two-time Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka or Czech Katerina Siniakova.
Meanwhile, Ostapenko offered a frank assessment of her return to Court Philippe-Chatrier.
“I think it was terrible day at the office today for me. I mean, in general I played maybe like 20 per cent of what I can play. Made like 50 unforced errors and so many double faults. Like couldn't serve today. Everything together just brought me really bad result,” explained the 20-year-old, who admitted to letting her frustrations take over her tennis.
“I think in the beginning it was okay, but then it just got worse. I felt that I'm not myself today on the court. I was just trying to manage and fight until the last point, but she was playing very defensive, and I was just making so many unforced errors, which I normally don't do.
“I will just try to forget it as soon as I can,” added the Lativan, eager to move on quickly. “I’m just still playing here in the doubles, and then the tournament is over and just going to come back stronger next year.”