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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 June 2018

Jelena Ostapenko confident Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships can kick-start season

World No 6 from Latvia has so far struggled in 2018 to replicate the form that made her a grand slam champion last year.

Jelena Ostapenko has lost in the first round in three of five tournaments played this year but is confident of a strong showing in Dubai. Dmitri Lovetsky / AP Photo
Jelena Ostapenko has lost in the first round in three of five tournaments played this year but is confident of a strong showing in Dubai. Dmitri Lovetsky / AP Photo

Jelena Ostapenko is optimistic she can kick-start her stuttering 2018 season at the WTA Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship on Wednesday against Russian Elena Vesnina.

The world No 6 and reigning French Open champion has not enjoyed the year so far, losing her first match at three of the five tournaments she has competed in, as well as being knocked out in the third round of the Australian Open in January.

But Ostapenko, while admitting she has had to adjust to being a top-10 player, is also encouraged by her performances in helping Latvia beat Turkey in the Fed Cup Europe/Africa Zone Group I earlier in February.

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“It was not easy this season, especially finishing last year as a top 10,” Ostapenko, 20, told reporters on Tuesday. “So it's a little bit harder because most of the matches I'm a favourite.

“But I think it was not bad. I had a lot of good matches. I mean, not last week [she lost in the second round in Doha in straight sets to world No 43 Mihaela Buzarnescu]. I won doubles, I'm really happy about it. In singles I would prefer to play better.

“I came from Fed Cup, all those emotions. We qualified for World Group, so that was great. I had a couple more days to prepare for the Dubai tournament. I feel good now.”

The French Open last June was when Ostapenko came to the attention of many in the sport when she shocked Simona Halep in the final to win her first major title.

Looking ahead to the rest of the season, she said one of her main goals was doing herself proud in Paris in May when she competes at a grand slam for the first time as defending champion.

“I did not do bad in Australia,” she said reflecting on the first of the four majors this year in Melbourne where she lost to Anett Kontaveit. “I made the third round. It was a tough match. Of course, losing is not great, but I did my best.

“Hopefully the other three I can play well. I will prepare very well for the French Open because I have to defend the title.”

This is Ostapenko’s third time in Dubai. She did not qualify for the main draw in 2016 and lost in the first round 12 months ago to Chinese player Qiang Wang.

Ostapenko had a bye to the second round with Vesnina, the world No 23, defeating Shuai Peng 6-4, 7-5 on Monday.