If you follow professional tennis even casually, you might be aware that no one lives in the present like Jelena Ostapenko.
You always know exactly what she’s thinking. Her faces are the stuff of social media legend – hilarious GIFs appropriate for so many occasions. Which is why it’s so unusual to hear her embracing the future.
She’s sitting on a bench outside the Hologic WTA Tour locker room underneath Hard Rock Stadium, a few days before her first match at the recent Miami Open. Wearing a white t-shirt, black leggings – and some flaming orange fingernail polish – she discussed the importance of financial security and the steps she’s taken to guarantee it.
“You always have to think about the future – which I don’t like so much,” Ostapenko said, laughing. “I like to live in the moment, try to enjoy it as much as possible. I hope I’m always going to earn a lot of money, but of course you have to think about how you’re going to do it.”
The Latvian was a Wimbledon junior champion in 2014, but three years later, an unlikely victory at Roland Garros sent her hurtling into a different financial zip code. Her prize money: $2.3 million. She was the first unseeded French Open champion since Margaret Scriven in 1933 and the youngest (20) since Iva Majoli two decades earlier.
“Your tennis career is not going to be forever,” Ostapenko continued. “You have to try to earn as much as possible while playing. Of course it’s very important to secure the future. You must invest money somewhere, so it can earn more. Your money has to work for you – just like you work for it.”
Ostapenko’s money, overseen by advisors, works for her in the usual ways – and some not so typical. She was the face of a real estate project, she said, a few years ago. She’s also invested in an apartment complex outside of Riga’s city center, “a nice area by the lake.”
And then there is something closer to her passion for the sport of tennis: Glamorous gear. Ostapenko has partnered with DK One, an activewear company based in Riga, Latvia’s capital.
“Daniela is the owner of the company and she used to play tennis herself,” Ostapenko said. “The story was that some of the tennis clothes didn’t really fit her, the sizes and shapes. So she thought of doing the patterns and prints herself. She said it was really tough, but she decided to do it because she had so many issues with the clothes.”
And in 2017 – the same year Ostapenko won at Roland Garros – DK One was born. Ostapenko partnered with the company during the offseason and quickly discovered that designing clothing was even harder than playing elite tennis.
“It all looks very easy, but when you start going through all the steps – Oh, my God!” said Ostapenko, making a very Ostapenko face. “First you have to do the patterns and the shapes. Then there is the fabric. Then you can do the design. The colors come last.”
Ah, the colors. Remember those orange fingernails? That was a spoiler.
“Bright, bright colors are my favorites,” Ostapenko said. “The neon pink, the neon yellow, the neon green. The blue, too.”
With COVID-19 percolating across the world, Ostapenko and DK One didn’t have much time to properly prepare for 2022. Nevertheless, she appeared at the Sydney Tennis Classic and the Australian Open wearing a baby blue top and fluorescent yellow shorts. Fashionistas couldn’t quite make out the logo. Turned out, it was DK One by Jelena Ostapenko.
She joined a growing number of players who have thrown their names into the fashion game. Venus Williams created EleVen and has worn her celebrated designs since 2007. Sister Serena, Sania Mirza, Dominika Cibulkova and Tsvetana Pironkova are among others also associated with apparel lines.
In February, Ostapenko appeared in a Nike kit but hoped the new DK One line would be ready sometime this spring's clay season. The company’s core values are comfort, originality and quality, and the motto is “play and win.”
She said the clothes will be available at the Riga store and worldwide via the company’s website. After tennis, Ostapenko added, she’d like to create her own line of not just activewear but casual clothes as well.
And as part of her continuing education in the tennis business, Ostapenko said she might go back to school when she stops swinging the racquet.
“I didn’t go to university because I was not sure what I was going to do,” she said. “One of the things I want to probably study is business management – to know how to deal with all the financial things. Math was always my favorite subject in school. Finance was always something I wanted to learn.”
Meanwhile, Ostapenko is still tweaking the logo.
“I’m not sure if I like the logo 100 percent,” she said. “Sometimes I see it and I kind of like it and then, another time, I don’t like it so much. It’s very personal, because it’s your name.
“It will take time.”
And yes, shaking her head, she made that familiar face.