After zooming from a Top 50 player looking for her first title to a Grand Slam champion and Top 10 star, Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia claims the WTA Most Improved Player of the Year award for 2017.
Here's how things have changed for the 20-year-old this season:
1. Ostapenko won the first title of her career -- and it was the French Open. After going 0-for-3 in her previous WTA finals, Ostapenko finally went undefeated in a tournament, and it was a Grand Slam event to boot.
After shocking former champion Samantha Stosur, former WTA World No.1 Caroline Wozniacki, and French Open stalwart Timea Bacsinszky to reach the final, Ostapenko emerged victorious for the first time in a championship match with a stirring come-from-behind victory over WTA World No.2 Simona Halep.
2. She backed up one fantastic Grand Slam with another. Ostapenko followed up her triumph in Paris with a quarterfinal finish at Wimbledon, where she bowed out to five-time champion Venus Williams.
Ostapenko became one of a small handful of players in recent years to back up their first Grand Slam title with a quarterfinal-or-better result in their next appearance at a major.
3. Ostapenko increased her title count soon enough. After getting such a grand prize for her first title, Ostapenko quickly put any doubts to rest about when her next victory would be, claiming the Hana Bank-Incheon Airport Korea Open in Seoul over much-improved Brazilian Beatriz Haddad Maia for her second WTA singles title.
She is one of only eight players to win two or more titles this year.
4. Clutch results in big events. Ostapenko has matured into a player who exhibits her best tennis at top-tier events. She followed up her Seoul title with semifinal runs at the Premier 5 Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open and the Premier Mandatory China Open in Beijing.
She also reached the final on the green clay of Charleston at the Volvo Car Open, a Premier event. Moreover, in three-set matches this year, she has posted a superb 19-7 win/loss record.
5. Rocketing ranking leads to Singapore debut. After starting the year at WTA World No.44, Ostapenko propelled herself into the Top 10, currently sitting at a career-high No.7 ranking, and earned a spot in the 2017 BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global.
“I’m extremely happy to qualify for my very first WTA Finals,” Ostapenko said. “I’ve had a great season and hope I can continue to play my best tennis in front of all the fans in Singapore.”