She hasn’t dropped a set yet, has spent less than five hours in total on court through her first four matches, is averaging a 24 winner-count in each round, yet somehow Jelena Ostapenko has been flying under the radar at Wimbledon this fortnight.
The Latvian 2017 French Open champion, lost in the first round of her title defence in Paris six weeks ago, but is back on a mission on the lawns of south-west London and booked herself a spot in the quarter-finals with a 7-6 (4), 6-0 over Aliaksandra Sasnovich on Monday.
After falling behind 2-5 to Sasnovich – who knocked out Petra Kvitova in the first round – Ostapenko won 11 of the next 12 games to wrap up the win and reach the last-eight at Wimbledon for a second consecutive year.
The 21-year-old, who next faces unseeded Slovak Dominika Cibulkova, won the Wimbledon junior title in 2014 and has an aggressive style that can be terrifying on grass.
Ostapenko’s shock first-round loss to Kateryna Kozlova at Roland Garros in May saw her drop out of the top-10. She parted ways with her coach of just six months, David Taylor, after Paris and added Glenn Schaap to her team, to work alongside her mother. Schaap had just split with Anett Kontaveit, also after the French Open.
“I’m just trying to forget it as quick as I could and I just want to have a good tournament here.”
That she is having.
The young Latvian has been her fiery self so far this Wimbledon, and has been particularly ruthless on return, winning 20 of 38 return games on her opponents’ serve.
With all top-10 seeds crashing out before the quarter-finals, Ostapenko is the second-highest ranked player still standing in the draw, behind No. 11 Angelique Kerber.
She has been witnessing all the high-profile upsets from afar but is trying to remain focused on her own path.
“I’m not surprised anymore because every day something strange is happening in a draw and some surprises. Just now Simona lost, that was a big upset probably. But I’m still in the draw and I’m playing and just trying to focus on myself,” Ostapenko said after her third round on Saturday.
“I’m just trying to focus on myself because I think that when I play well I can beat anyone.”
Does she have an explanation as to why all these top-10 players fell early?
“I don’t know. I think grass is always a tricky surface – for me I really like it but probably for the other players it’s hard because you never know what to expect because some players can play better on grass and the bounces are not always the same, so I don’t know what’s happening,” she replied.
Ostapenko says her current level is similar to how it was at the French Open last year but believes the grass is even better for her game.
Her first tournament with Schaap was Eastbourne, right before Wimbledon, and she says they’ve already struck up a solid dynamic.
“It was a good almost half year working with David [Taylor] but after the French Open we decided to not continue working because it wasn’t working anymore,” said Ostapenko.
“For me I think everything is positive that I changed the coach. When I started to work with Glenn, he told me some things and I really like those things and they were working very well. And I think it helps my game a lot what he’s saying.”
Ostapenko has now had three different coaches working alongside her mother within the last 12 months – Schaap, Taylor, and Anabel Medina Garrigues, who was in her corner during her Roland Garros title run last year.
It may not always be easy listening to all these different voices within one’s camp and Ostapenko admits it doesn’t always go too well.
“It depends, if I have respect and I saw what that coach did before then I have respect straightaway and I listen to everything he says but if I see that things aren’t really working so well then I’m doubting, and maybe I listen but inside I have this feeling that it’s not working and like I don’t need to listen to it probably,” she says with a smile.
With Ostapenko and her compatriot Ernests Gulbis both making the second week at Wimbledon this fortnight, it’s the first time in history that multiple Latvian players have made it this far at the same Grand Slam.
“It’s great to see him doing this well because I think he’s such a talented player and he can play on a very high level,” Ostapenko said of Gulbis.
“I hope he’s going to go even further in the tournament.”
Know more about Sport360 Application