PARIS, France - It may be hard to believe, but the 2018 French Open will be just the third main draw appearance at Roland Garros for defending champion Jelena Ostapenko. The 20-year-old's stunning run to the 2017 title was just her second main draw appearance in Paris, which resulted in her first tour-level title. Such is the audacious, prodigious, ambitious Latvian's talent.
"I haven't thought about it that it's only my third main draw," Ostapenko told reporters on Media Day at Roland Garros."I'm feeling really good to be back here. Of course it feels like home also, because, I mean, I won the title here, and spent the two weeks last year. I mean, just feeling great to be here."
Now seeded No.5, Ostapenko's last 12 months have been full of new experiences. After winning Roland Garros she made her first Wimbledon quarterfinal. She won her first WTA Tour title in Seoul, qualified for her first WTA Finals, and finished inside the Top 10 for the first time in her career. Earlier this spring she made her first Premier Mandatory final in Miami.
Now, for the first time, she will try and defend a title. A Slam title, no less.
"There are still a couple of days [until the tournament starts], and I'm not trying to think about it much now. I know it's not going to be easy because I will have that pressure. I'm just trying to do everything possible to be ready."
Playing with pressure was something Ostapenko did not have to do last year in Paris. Unseeded and outside the spotlight, a teenage Ostapenko blasted through a series of three-set matches, that saw her unseat 2010 finalist Samantha Stosur, Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki, two-time semifinalist Timea Bacsinszky, and current No.1 Simona Halep.
"I don't think I was thinking about anything in the matches," Ostapenko said. "I was just trying to just play my game and after the match against Sam, I think it was a tough one, and then playing against Caroline from a set down, I think I got my confidence. And then I was just enjoying and playing my game."
It took Ostapenko months until the reality of her status as the youngest active major champion sunk in.
"Actually when I won it last year, I realized maybe just a couple of months after that and then I had to get used to this new status that I'm a Grand Slam champion. I mean, now, of course it's great, this feeling.
"People just expect more from you, and there is more attention from everybody. And also from the players' side, like every player you play wants to beat you."
"I'm feeling good. I had some good results also on clay and some good wins. Just looking forward to my first match here."
Ostapenko plays her first round match against Ukraine's Kateryna Kozlova.
For more on Ostapenko's draw, read the WTA Insider Draw Analysis.