Wimbledon 2017: Jelena Ostapenko dreams of back-to-back titles despite rollercoaster run on grass

London: Jelena Ostapenko was flying high after her shock French Open triumph when she was invited into the cockpit of the plane taking her home to a hero's welcome in Latvia.

Now the 20-year-old from Riga is looking for more red carpet treatment by picking up an equally unlikely Wimbledon crown.

Ostapenko's world changed overnight when she came back from a set and 3-0 down to defeat Simona Halep in the Roland Garros final three weeks ago.

Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia holds the winners trophy after defeating Kristina Schmiedlova of Slovakia in their girl's singles final tennis match at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, in London July 6, 2014. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth (BRITAIN - Tags: SPORT TENNIS) - RTR3XDFQ

Jelena Ostapenko holds the 2014 Wimbledon girls' trophy after defeating Kristina Schmiedlova. Reuters

Fans turned out in their droves to welcome her home, showing off hastily painted homemade posters bearing the fresh-faced image of the sport's newest Grand Slam champion.

Even the pilot of her Air Baltic flight from Paris was won over.

"When I boarded, the crew came and asked me if I want to fly in the cockpit," recalled Ostapenko on Saturday.

"I said, Of course, I want to. I went there, and actually it's more interesting to fly there. The view is much, much better."

But she was keen to stress that she was not actually in control of the flight!

"No. I was just sitting next to the captain."

Ostapenko became Latvia's first Grand Slam champion in Paris.

Her title also represented the first of any type in her career.

She won the trophy with a breathless and fearless brand of attacking tennis.

In the final, she fired 54 winners and 54 unforced errors past a shell-shocked Halep.

Her 299 winners in the tournament were the most by any player — man or woman.

It's the kind of big-hitting which should serve her well on the faster courts of Wimbledon.

She was the 2014 junior champion at the All England Club although her professional career at the tournament has seen a brief second round run in 2015 followed by a first round exit last year.

Ostapenko admits she has a rollercoaster relationship with grass, once considering it only suitable for football.

But her rivals should beware.

As well as her girls title in London three years ago, Ostapenko defeated two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova on the Birmingham grass courts in 2016 and was a semi-finalist in the mixed doubles at Wimbledon, also last year.

"I think my best memories are when I won junior Wimbledon, and the next year I got the wild card and won my first match against Carla (Suarez Navarro)," added Ostapenko.

"She was top 10 that year. Yeah, I feel very special here and I really like it."

Come what may over the next two weeks, Ostapenko insists fame won't go to her head.

She has hardly had time to take in her French Open triumph, having quickly left Riga to play the grass court at Eastbourne last week where she made the third round.

"I think I just saw some highlights once or twice of the final. I didn't watch it that often because I didn't have that much time," said the Latvian who faces Aliaksandra Sasnovich in her Wimbledon opener.

"In fact, I don't see many matches. I mean, if I need to see one, I will see the match. If the match is really interesting, I will watch it. Sometimes I prefer to see some other sports."


Published Date: Jul 01, 2017 09:49 pm | Updated Date: Jul 01, 2017 09:49 pm


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