No.7 seed Jelena Ostapenko won the battle of former French Open champions, knocking out 2010 winner Francesca Schiavone to open play on Rod Laver Arena.
David Kane
January 15, 2018

MELBOURNE, Australia - Jelena Ostapenko won her first match of the season on one of the game's biggest stages, roaring back from 1-4 in the second set to dispatch 2010 Roland Garros champion Francesca Schiavone, 6-1, 6-4, at the Australian Open.

"I knew before the match that it's not going to be easy," she said in her post-match press conference. "She's very experienced player and she's very long time on tour.

"I knew I had to play really aggressive and stay very consistent."

The Latvian youngster shook off tough losses at the Shenzhen Open and Apia International Syndey to play decisive tennis through the first set in front of an enthusiastic Rod Laver Arena.

A former Australian Open quarterfinalist and World No.4, Schiavone displayed her famous fighting qualities to edge ahead by a break in the second, but Ostapenko hit an unplayable gear to reel off the final five games and book her spot in the second round after an hour and 14 minutes.

"It's tough, especially after winning at the age of 20. Everybody wants to beat you. You have to prepare very well for every match. But on the other side, I have nothing to lose. I already won the Grand Slam. I just enjoy every match and show my best."

In all, the 20-year-old struck 28 winners to just four from the Italian, and showed off a vastly improved serve under new coach David Taylor, hitting five aces to only three double faults. 

"We did the preseason and we are working together. I think he's a great and very experienced coach, and he can help me with a lot of things."

The biggest problem for the No.7 seed seemed to come after the match, when a fan tossed a tournament program for her to sign without noting which page her profile was on.

Ostapenko nearly made her major breakthrough last year in Melbourne, pushing future WTA World No.1 Karolina Pliskova to 10-8 in the final set on Margaret Court Arena, but followed up in glittering style at the French Open, where she stunned the likes of Caroline Wozniacki and Simona Halep en route to her maiden major victory.

"Philippe Chatrier is my favorite court, because I won my biggest tournament there, and my first Grand Slam. But I really enjoy to play on all center courts, especially when there is a lot of people watching and supporting me. I really love that feeling."

From there, she made her Top 10 debut and enjoyed impressive results at Wimbledon, Wuhan, and Beijing - with a second WTA title in Seoul in between - to qualify for the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global.

Up next for Ostapenko is China's Duan Ying-Ying, who won the first main draw match of the 2018 Australian Open over Mariana Duque-Mariño with the loss of just one game.