French Open winner Jelena Ostapenko would love the chance to dance at the Wimbledon champions' dinner.
Mark Hodgkinson

LONDON, England - For lawn tennis, as with the cha cha cha, you need a fearlessness, fast feet and a sense of rhythm. 

If Jelena Ostapenko has her way, one of Wimbledon's lost traditions, a ballroom dance between the women's and men's singles champions, will be revived at the end-of-tournament party this summer. A dance enthusiast as well as the new force in the women's game, Ostapenko's celebrations after her unexpected run to the French Open title included a couple of days in a studio in Latvia, where she practised the samba, the rumba, the cha cha cha, the jive and the paso doble. 

Those sessions came in between having breakfast with the Latvian President, Raimonds Vejonis, who told the 20-year-old her victory was "unbelievable", which seems to be the universal take on what happened at Roland Garros. If Ostapenko were to also score the Wimbledon singles title - and, as a a former junior champion, she has some grass-court pedigree - she would very much like to dance with whoever comes through the men's draw. 

Jelena Ostapenko with the girls' trophy at Wimbledon in 2014 (Getty)
Jelena Ostapenko with the girls' trophy at Wimbledon in 2014 (Getty)

"I think that dance would be good to see again. That would be really fun to do the dance if you win the tournament. I could do it because I was a professional ballroom dancer before so I know how to dance," she said while preparing for the Aegon International in Eastbourne. 

Officially, that party is a dinner rather than a ball. For the last time that Wimbledon's singles champions had a formal dance, you have to spool back to 1986, when Martina Navratilova and Boris Becker took to the floor. While Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic performed a routine in 2015, that wasn't ballroom dancing, but disco, set to 'Night Fever' by The Bee Gees. Anyone who yearns for a proper return of ballroom dancing at Wimbledon's party - and there will be a fair number - will be urging on Ostapenko. 

"I've done a couple of ballroom dance practices since Paris, and that was really nice that I had some days off and I had a chance to do that. I was doing the Latin American dances - samba, rumba, cha cha cha, jive and paso doble," said Ostapenko, who on her return to Latvia was met at the airport by hundreds of people. 

"It's been an amazing reaction from people in Latvia. They are really happy that I won my first Grand Slam. When I came home it was really nice. I had a chance to fly in the cockpit for the first time. When I arrived home, there was a red carpet and so many people came out to meet me. It's been really fun because when I arrived at the airport my fans came even though it was late, it was 11pm. There were around 300 people and that was really impressive."

Breakfast with the President was also a thrill. "That was really nice to have breakfast with the President. He told me that it was unbelievable that I had won, that it was great, and he said he was really happy for me. That was nice to hear."

Ostapenko might just have started a tennis boom in the Baltics.

"This has been a big moment for Latvia because tennis is popular in our country but it's also kind of an expensive sport and not everyone can afford to play it. Now I've made history at Paris, maybe more people are going to go to the courts to play tennis," Ostapenko said. "When I was playing in the final, there was a big screen set up in the city centre in Riga, and they were showing my game. So many came to watch it. They were even showing it in some shopping centres with big screens."

Unfortunately for Ostapenko's rivals, her ultra-aggressive approach to tennis might even be better suited to grass than to clay.

"I love to play on grass. I enjoy the grass-court season, even though it's very short. I think my game is suited to grass because I play aggressive tennis. I serve well. When I have a good day, the surface fits me, as the rallies probably aren't that long as it's hard to move on grass," she said. "Winning the junior title in 2014 was amazing. It was always my goal to win a junior Grand Slam, and that title helped me to make the transition from junior to women's tennis." 

Still, Ostapenko's Parisian run will also have shown other young players how they could also break through by winning a maiden Grand Slam.

"Have I inspired other players? I think so, probably, because I was 19 when I started the Grand Slam and turned 20 during the tournament. I think some players are inspired by what I did and they will work even harder to achieve their goals. I've got some messages from the players and that was really nice."