PARIS – After Jelena Ostapenko eliminated No. 2 seed Karolina Pliskova at the French Open on Thursday, the conversation quickly turned to 2017.
Which made sense, of course, because that was when Ostapenko surprisingly won the championship at Roland Garros — and the last year she even won so much as one match at the clay-court tournament, let alone two, the way she has this week.
“Of course it’s in my memory, because it’s the biggest win of my career so far, but I have to move forward. And just, like, the world doesn’t stop with winning only one Grand Slam. Of course I want to achieve more and I want to be back in top 5, top 10,” Ostapenko said after beating Pliskova 6-4, 6-2 with the help of a 27-9 edge in total winners.
“Step by step. That’s what I’m working on: my consistency,” Ostapenko said. “Still being an aggressive player — I think it can bring me a lot of wins — but consistency, probably, in my game is the key.”
Her next opponent is 87th-ranked Paula Badosa, who showed up this week with a 1-5 career record in Grand Slam matches but is into the third round at a major for the first time thanks to a 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 victory over 2017 U.S. Open champion and 2018 French Open runner-up Sloane Stephens.
Ostapenko has been as high as No. 5 and is currently No. 43. That’s not very different from where she was three years ago in Paris, ranked 47th and just two days past her 20th birthday when she became an impossible-to-predict Grand Slam champion.
“I was fearless,” she recalled Thursday. “Nobody really knew me.”
Using a grip-it-and-rip-it style, Ostapenko upset Simona Halep in the final, making the Latvian the first woman since 1979 to earn her first tour-level title at a major tournament.