GREAT Britain - Playing her first match since falling in the first round of French Open, No.5 seed Jelena Ostapenko looked back to some of her best tennis at the Nature Valley International in Eastbourne, dismissing former World No.15 Kaia Kanepi, 6-3, 7-5.
"It was not an easy match, and I knew the opponent is playing pretty well," she said in her post-match press conference. "I was just playing my game today. I think everything worked pretty well."
The young Latvian has enjoyed a largely strong sophomore season following last year's major success in Paris, starting the season with coach David Taylor - longtime coach of 2011 US Open champion Samantha Stosur - finishing runner-up at the Miami Open and reaching quarterfinals at both Porsche Tennis Grand Prix and Internazionali BNL d'Italia. The abrupt end to her title defense, then, came as a shock to many, Ostapenko included.
"After I lost [in singles], I didn't really have good couple of days because I lost doubles, as well, which I was supposed to win. And then before my mixed doubles, I got sick. I was throwing up 20 times before my mixed doubles match. So honestly, this year Paris was really bad for me and all that together. I mean, I lost the doubles and mixed doubles, everything first round, so that was super unlucky for me, this Roland Garros.
"But then I took a couple of days off and I stayed in Paris. I went to see Louvre, Versailles, and just to be like a tourist a little bit, try to do something else, not practicing and playing.
"Then I went back home. Of course I spent some good time with my friends and then celebrated my birthday, which was very, very nice. I think I'm going to remember it, like, very special because was 21. Then I started to practice."
Rebounding from a tough title defense against Kateryna Kozlova, the 2014 junior Wimbledon champion is now working with Glenn Schaap (formerly with Anett Kontaveit, and a former coach of players like Nadia Petrova, Dinara Safina).
"With David, we just decided that we are probably going to stop because it didn't work that well for me and for him. We worked almost half year together and it was I think a good half year. I cannot say anything bad. He's a great person.
"I did a couple of days at home practicing [with Glenn] and here, the tournaments, Wimbledon. I mean, we're going to see after."
Looking at home on grass, she raced through the opening set after an early exchange of breaks and earned the first service break of the second set.
Across the net was Kanepi, twice a quarterfinalist at Wimbledon who rolled into the last eight of the 2017 US Open as a qualifier. Undaunted, the Estonian broke straight back and put the Latvian within three points of a deciding set.
"I think the more aggressive you play, the better it is for you, because for the opponent it's very hard to play defensive on grass and the bounce is very unpredictable. It all goes pretty quick."
Ostapenko got up from a figurative - and literal - tumble to win the final three games to advance after one hour and 25 minutes on court, converting four of seven break point opportunities and winning a solid 71% of her first serve points.
Up next for the former World No.5 is fast-rising Romanian Mihaela Buzarnescu, who reached the Nature Valley Classic final just last week in Birmingham, and recovered from a set down to upset No.12 seed Kiki Bertens, 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-3.