Jelena Ostapenko entered Roland Garros with no titles to her name. She left as a Grand Slam champion and a new star of the sport with her aggressive brand of tennis. The Latvian was ranked at no. 47 in the world when she stunned the tennis elite, so why can’t she do it again at the Wimbledon Championships?
Wide Open Field
With Serena Williams seven months pregnant and therefore not competing, the women’s draw is as open as ever. Many experts are saying that ten or fifteen different players could win it and Jelena Ostapenko is definitely one of them. She is the only player to capitalise on Serena’s absence when she won the French Open last month. Big hitting players like Pliskova, Kvitova and Venus Williams are among those that are expected to win the title but there is no clear favourite.
Some of the top ranked players in the world also have question marks over them. Take Angelique Kerber for example, she has not performed anything close to world no. 1 standard and many would be surprised if she were to win the title. Simona Halep certainly has the talent to win a Grand Slam, but does she have the mentality. A commanding position in the French Open final was squandered due to a combination of lights out tennis from Ostapenko and a malfunction on Halep’s side.
A Game For Grass
Jelena Ostapenko frightened many people in Paris. One of the scariest aspects of her performances there was that clay is not even her best surface. The Latvian’s favourite surface is grass so why can’t she go all the way at SW19. In 2014 she picked up her only junior Grand Slam title at Wimbledon so she clearly has grass court pedigree.
Her play style is also very well suited to grass. Ostapenko goes for an ‘all or nothing’ approach on the court and she either plays exceptionally well or disastrously poor. Lately of course she has been playing great tennis which will translate beautifully to grass. We will all be aware from the surprising statistic the French Open provided us: Jelena Ostapenko’s average forehand speed was faster than Andy Murray’s. That alone tells you how much the Latvian goes for it and she will be even more dangerous with the wave of confidence she is riding. When she plays well she normally wins.
First Match Assessment
On Monday, the French Open champion started only her third senior Wimbledon campaign and it was a good start but it could have been a lot better. She faced Belorussian Aliaksandra Sasnovich on Court 18. The first set was flawless as Ostapenko raced through it 6-0. A major momentum swing then followed with Sasnovich fighting back to take the second set with the loss of a solitary game. Ostapenko then managed to wrestle the match in her favour and by doing so showed real signs of qualities that all champions do: to be able to win when not playing your best tennis.
Mentality of a Champion
As mentioned previously, Ostapenko was able to post a win when not playing her best tennis, something she has not been able to do much of so far in her career. Another quality she showed was being able to turn a match in her favour. Sasnovich seemed to be running away with it after storming through the second set but the Latvian kept her cool and fought like a warrior. You cannot become a Grand Slam winner without possessing some qualities of a champion and Ostapenko is exhibiting her qualities. It is amazing to see this after just one round.
She displayed some of these qualities in her first Grand Slam final against Simona Halep. Ostapenko seemed destined to lose when she found herself a set and a double break down but instead she persevered and managed to play better as the match went on. This is something that you do not see everyday in tennis and there is no doubt that Ostapenko will win multiple Slam titles in the future. It is amazing to think that she is only 20 years of age and you would not think it with the way she played in Paris. Ostapenko fears no one and she believes that she can beat anyone on her day.
Today the French Open champion faces the young rising star Francoise Abanda. The Canadian fought her way through qualifying and then managed to win a round in the main draw so she has a lot of grass court matches under her belt already. She has played nine sets at Wimbledon this year compared to three from Ostapenko so this should be a tricky test for the Latvian. The two have never faced each other so it may take a while for the match to get going whilst they get to grips with each others games. Ostapenko is playing excellent tennis of late and if she plays well she will win.
With a wide open field, an explosive game perfectly suited for grass and qualities of a champion, Jelena Ostapenko may win her second successive Grand Slam title here at Wimbledon.