The first time I heard or read about Ostapenko was in relation to a match she was playing against Naomi Broady who was arguing (unsuccessfully) that Ostapenko should be disqualified from her match because she either threw or her racquet slipped out of her hand and connected with an official at a tournament. Most of what I read about this young Latvian was negative. Folks on Twitter who had been exposed to the young Latvian had nothing positive to say about her. I decided a long time ago that whenever there is negativity surrounding a player I need to first of all see for myself why the outrage and secondly try and see for myself whether there were any redeeming qualities about said player. I am so happy that I did.
I watched Ostapenko in Doha last year when she got to the final. She lost but I was impressed by her backhand as well as her on court demeanour. That little glimmer of a smile when things don’t go according to plan. The forehand that breaks down under pressure and the on court coaching sessions with her mother, who for want of a better word is a one woman cheering team for her daughter.
During this clay season I watched the young Latvian as she rolled through her opponents, hitting backhand winner after backhand winner. During Charleston, I posted that she is my dark horse pick to make the second week of the French Open, despite knowing later that she prefers the faster surfaces.
Am I glad that I stuck around.
Ostapenko is talented. She is fiery. She is a superb tennis player and athlete. She is not going to make many friends on Tour because of what they consider to be her volatile personality, but as far as I am concerned, she is exactly what women’s tennis needs right now. A young player who is confident, who struts between points, who is not afraid to show how joyful she is when winning or the look of dismay on her face when things don’t go according to plan.
Coming from a set down in her last 2 matches against opponents more experienced on these big stages than she is, Ostapenko fought through nerves (if they ever existed) and hit her backhand like only she can. She next faces Timea Baczinsky who took out French hopeful Kristina Mladenovic in a rain affected 3 setter today. It will be the battle of the backhands and I am hoping that my young Latvian will make her way to the finals of the French Open on Saturday. Grab your popcorn. It is going to be spectacular