Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 25 September 2020

Jelena Ostapenko targets ‘all the grand slams’ after powering her way past Simona Halep to French Open title

First Latvian player to win a grand slam title, Ostapenko is also the first unseeded player to clinch Roland Garros title.
Latvia's Jelena Ostapenko celebrates after winning her French Open final against Romania's Simona Halep at Roland Garros on Saturday. Francois Xavier Marit / AFP
Latvia's Jelena Ostapenko celebrates after winning her French Open final against Romania's Simona Halep at Roland Garros on Saturday. Francois Xavier Marit / AFP

PARIS // Shock French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko said she will keep true to her fearless, big-hitting game in the confident belief that more grand slam titles are just around the corner.

Ostapenko, 20, a virtual unknown before the start of Roland Garros, fired 54 winners and 54 unforced errors past Simona Halep in her 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 win on Saturday.

The Latvian ended the tournament with 299 winners – more than any other woman or man at the tournament.

“I always had the possibility I could hit the ball really hard. If I have a chance to go for a shot, I’m trying for it,” said Ostapenko, just the third woman born in the 1990s to capture a major title.

“Nobody taught me. It’s just the way I play. And also I think my character is like that. So I want to really hit the ball.”

Asked when she realised her daughter had so much power, Jelena Jakovleva said: “The day she was born.

“She had the same energy when she was little, it was very difficult.

“She danced, swam, played tennis, she played football because she had so much energy.

“She’s fearless, she fights for every point.”

Her “live by the sword, die by the sword” approach worked wonders on Saturday when she was 3-1 down in both the second and third sets.

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Name Jelena Ostapenko (LAT)

World ranking 47 (will rise to 12 on Monday)

Date of birth June 8, 1997

Place of birth Riga

Place of residence Riga

Height 1.77m (5ft 10ins)

Turned pro 2012

Career singles titles 1

Career prize money US$3,638,260 (Dh13,367,518.75)

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Her big hitting is also a testament to her favourite player Serena Williams, whose sheer force of will and raw power have been key elements in her success.

Ostapenko described the American, a three-time champion in Paris, as “an idol”.

“She’s a great champion. I think she’s playing probably similar to my style, so she was my idol.”

The former Wimbledon junior champion says she is looking forward to playing at the All England Club again next month where she made the second round two years ago. But she does not want to stop there. “I would like to win all of the grand slams. It’s my goal,” said Ostapenko who spends up to six hours a day on court in practice.

Her win on Saturday, which was also her first main tour career title, came in just her eighth major appearance. She is the first unseeded player to win Roland Garros since 1933 and the lowest-ranked champion.

The French Open, she added, was always the major she dreamed of winning, from the time she strolled around the grounds as a 12-year-old and taking in the history at the museum.

From those early days she progressed to juniors and second-tier ITF events, playing in front of just a handful of people.

All a far cry from the 15,000 people who witnessed a new star being born in the baking sun.

“I’m just going to try to work hard but I think if I have a really good day and I’m hitting really well, I think anything is possible,” Ostapenko said.

Halep said she felt like a spectator in parts of Saturday’s final.

“Sometimes I felt like a spectator,” the defeated third seed said. “I was close again but I lost it. She deserved to win, she played very well.”

Halep was beaten three years after losing another tight final to Maria Sharapova at Roland Garros. The 25-year-old Romanian, though, was optimistic that her own taste of major success would come one day.

“I can just look forward,” she said. “If needed I will play 20 years to have this moment.”

* Agencies

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Updated: June 10, 2017 04:00 AM

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