STUTTGART, Germany – Jelena Ostapenko’s clay court season got off to a victorious start as she proved too good for qualifier Zarina Diyas at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, the No.4 seed winning through 6-3, 6-0.
The French Open champion’s game was by no means flawless but her heavy hitting and smart use of angles proved to be too much for an opponent already playing her fifth match in Stuttgart this year.
“First matches are always tough. I thought I played well for the first round and I’m feeling great to be back on clay,” she said in her on-court interview after the win.
“I’m really enjoying it, especially here, it’s very fast and fits my game well, so hopefully I can do well.”
Given that it was the Latvian’s first match on the surface this year, she could have been forgiven for the sluggish start she made, missing her targets and making a string of unforced errors as her opponent, the WTA World No.52, was rather presented with a head start.
Ostapenko, though, immediately showed the other side to her game and bludgeoned a succession of winners to regain the break, not letting her opponent win a point in her first service game.
From that moment, the match was on the racquet of the WTA World No.5. Diyas’ serve was persistently put under pressure, and while she did not negotiate her own games serenely, she looked in control of matters.
It took until the eighth game for the breakthrough to be made. The Kazak player had been clinging on thanks to her high first serve percentage, but when it slipped, Ostapenko took advantage, pummelling a superb return winner down the line on break point.
After serving out the first set amid a mix of booming winners and unforced errors, the higher ranked player immediately took command of the second, winning a near eight-minute-long game on Diyas’ serve.
Without a win in her career against a Top Five player, Diyas wilted after that moment, while Ostapenko increased in strength.
Fewer unforced errors were made by Ostapenko, who finished the match with 13 in comparison to 22 winners, though she was being put under less pressure by an opponent who had resisted well in the first set but was unable to stem the flow in the second.
Within the blink of an eye, Ostapenko had steamed into a 5-0 lead and from there she served out to love.
After reaching a first premier mandatory final in Miami, she is now eyeing the prospect of going one better in Germany.
“The beginning of the year was tough,” she admitted. “I was a Top 10 player and almost every match I was the favourite but now I’m getting used to it. Since I made the final in Miami, I’m getting more confident and playing better.”
A quarterfinal against Karolina Pliskova, the No.5 seed, awaits.