PARIS, France -- 2017 champion Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia has regained her winning ways at Roland Garros, dispatching Madison Brengle of the United States 6-2, 6-1, in the opening round on the clay courts of Paris.
Ostapenko stunned the tennis world by winning her first WTA title at the French Open as an unseeded starlet three years ago, but she failed to win a match in her title defense in 2018, then lost her opener to Victoria Azarenka in 2019. At last, Ostapenko notched a victory at Roland Garros once again, ousting World No.78 Brengle after an hour and two minutes of play.
"I thought it was a good match," Ostapenko said in her post-match press conference. "I think I started pretty well and very confident, not going for crazy shots. I think was very consistent today. Still played very aggressive. I think I served pretty well."
"I had to get used to the pressure, but now it's all gone, and finally I won my first match after two years, like, not winning a match here," Ostapenko stated. "I'm really happy with that. Because first rounds are always tough, it's never easy, and you get tight sometimes and you have to deal with the pressure. But I felt like really well today on court. Hopefully I can keep it up."
One of five former champions to start the main draw, Ostapenko brought a 2-1 head-to-head lead into her match with Brengle, but all three of their previous encounters had come during that 2017 season. Moreover, Brengle is just a handful of weeks removed from a third-round showing at the US Open, where she knocked out Dayana Yastremska.
Nevertheless, World No.43 Ostapenko used her power game to great effect on Tuesday morning, slamming 46 winners, to just six from Brengle. Ostapenko had eight double faults as well, but that was a small price to pay as she triumphed on a majority of the important points, fending off 15 of Brengle's whopping 17 break points, while converting seven of her nine chances.
"My goal was to step in the court and be aggressive all the match, because I knew that I have to play that way against her to beat [Brengle], because she's a very consistent player," said Ostapenko. "She kind of never does any gifts and misses the ball. So I had to really step in the court and just play my game and play aggressive. I feel like I did it well today."
"I was kind of waiting for this clay season," Ostapenko stated. "Finally, here we are. Yeah, just taking one match at a time, but really happy with my performance today."
In the second round, Ostapenko will face No.2 seed Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic, who overcame qualifier Mayar Sherif, the first-ever woman representing Egypt to play in a Grand Slam singles main draw, in a three-set tussle.
After an early exchange of breaks in the first two games, Brengle was a whisker away from holding serve, leading 40-0 at 1-1. But at that point, Ostapenko’s backhand began to kick into high gear, and the Latvian cracked three winning shots from that wing down the line, eventually steering to another break and a 2-1 lead.
Brengle, though, continued to chase down the Ostapenko rockets with aplomb, and gritted her way through a protracted battle to get back on serve at 2-2, on her seventh break point of the game. However, Ostapenko quickly regained composure, breaking Brengle again for 3-2, then earning the first service hold of the day for 4-2 by zipping a forehand winner down the line.
Brengle nearly immediately matched the Latvian with a hold, but fierce forehand winners by Ostapenko brought that game from 40-15 to deuce. A dropshot winner by the hard-hitting former champion was a deft change of pace to give herself another break point, where Brengle subsequently double faulted to cede a 5-2 lead to Ostapenko.
Ostapenko had to face adversity when serving for the set, staring down an additional two break points, but more aggressive play helped her erase the American’s chances. After a forehand error by Brengle at deuce, the Latvian garnered a set point, which she converted by ending a rally with another signature backhand down the line.
Ostapenko’s glorious play from the backhand side continued unabated in the second set, as she whipped a return winner from that wing to break at love in the first game. After Ostapenko consolidated for 2-0, Brengle held serve for the first time at 2-1, showing signs that she would not go down without a fight.
In the end, though, Ostapenko blasted her way out of jams, erasing two break points at 2-1 and another at 4-1, racking up a run of games from behind. The powerful Latvian also continued to mix in more dropshots for winners, including one to queue up her first match point at 5-1. There, a return winner down the line closed out the clash, and Ostapenko clinched a long-awaited Parisian victory.