STRASBOURG, France – WTA World No.43 Jelena Ostapenko says that she holds aspirations to return to the top of the game – and she will do so with a “smarter” approach.
A surprise 2017 French Open winner, the Latvian has climbed as high as WTA World No.5 but has fallen on harder times of late, having dropped as low as No.83 in the Ranking.
Now working with Thomas Hogstedt, the 23-year-old is aiming to regain the status that she once held and has made progress to the quarterfinals of the Internationaux de Strasbourg courtesy, moving past Lauren Davis and Kiki Bertens in the process.
Although the latter victory came on Wednesday courtesy of her opponent retiring, she drew many positives from an encounter in which she trailed by a set and a break, reflecting that playing in a marginally more conservative manner may be the route to that success.
“She retired, it’s not the best way to finish the match, but I’m glad that I was fighting because it might have been over in two sets,” she said. “I was a set and 4-2 down and I’m glad I fought to the end.
“I couldn’t find my game and I think I was rushing a little bit.
“Then in the second set, I started to play better, a bit smarter, not go for every shot. I tried to play some different games, dropshots and kick serves, and I think that worked pretty well.”
After haemorrhaging 11 unforced errors to her opponent’s two in the opener, which lasted less than half an hour, the change of approach signalled an alteration in the flow of the match. By the conclusion of the second set, Ostapenko was matching the
WTA World No.8 statistically and had wrestled the momentum from her to establish a lead in the decider before the Dutchwoman was forced to retire.
“It’s important to play this kind of match, especially when you don’t play your best and you have to try to find your game and try to improve some things, especially in the week before a Grand Slam.,” she said.
And after tasting success in the French capital three years ago, she believes she is moving in the right direction to enjoy glory upon such a stage once more.
“I always knew that I could be at that level,” she said reflecting on her 2017 triumph over Simona Halep. “I’m getting slowly back there. I can get back to Top 5 and win another Slam, that’s what I’m working for just now.”
Her success over Bertens – just her second Top 10 win on the dirt – represents another step towards that goal, with Nao Hibino to follow in the last eight.
“She’s a bit different from Kiki. I have to stay with my game and play my game, and of course I’ve got a chance of beating her,” she said.
By the time the Roland Garros draw is made, Ostapenko will hope to be looking forward to another match in Alsace as she aims for her first Tour title on clay since winning in Roma and Stuttgart in 2018.