Tennis: Pierce backs fearless Latvian to outlast Timea

Latvian Jelena Ostapenko reacting after winning a point against Dane Caroline Wozniacki in the French Open quarter-finals.
Latvian Jelena Ostapenko reacting after winning a point against Dane Caroline Wozniacki in the French Open quarter-finals.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

The perks of being young and not yet scarred by the bitterness of many defeats can often produce fearless tennis and that is precisely what Jelena Ostapenko has demonstrated so far at the French Open.

The Latvian, who turns 20 today, has charmed the Paris crowd with her go-for-broke attitude and game, storming through the women's draw. She faces world No. 31 Timea Bacsinszky in today's semi-finals.

There is plenty to admire about Ostapenko's performances, two-time Grand Slam champion Mary Pierce said yesterday in a conference call from Roland Garros with Singapore media.

The 42-year-old added: "I think she is fearless. Mentally, out on the court she is such a great fighter and is really hard-hitting. She is really young, fiery and exciting and definitely someone to watch."

The world No. 47 is the first Latvian woman to make the last four of a Grand Slam in the Open era. She is also the first teenager to go past the fourth round since Ana Ivanovic did so at the 2007 French Open.

Her 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 win over Caroline Wozniacki on Tuesday marked the third time she won a match at this French Open after losing the first set. She made 50 unforced errors but also hit 38 winners in the win over the former world No. 1.


    Men's q-finals: Dominic Thiem (Aut) bt Novak Djokovic (Srb) 7-6 (7-5) 6-3 6-0, Rafael Nadal (Esp) bt Pablo Carreno Busta (Esp) 6-2 2-0 ret.

    Women's q-finals: Simona Halep (Rom) bt Elina Svitolina (Ukr) 3-6 7-6 (8-6) 6-0, Karolina Pliskova (Cze) bt Caroline Garcia (Fra) 7-6 (7-3) 6-4.


She has yet to win a WTA title and her best run at a Grand Slam before arriving in Paris was reaching the third round at this year's Australian Open.

Pierce, who won the 2000 French Open, said: "The most impressive thing was that Ostapenko lost the first set and fought back. She is a great competitor who stayed in the match and didn't give up. I think there was probably some nerves at the beginning of the match but it was great to see her come back and play aggressive and fierce tennis especially at such a young age against a great player like Wozniacki."

Swiss Bacsinszky, also a birthday girl who is 28 today, will be making her second semi-final appearance in three years at the French Open.

Pierce, who is a WTA Finals ambassador, said: "Bacsinszky is older and more experienced but Ostapenko will likely be the one who comes out with a lot of energy.

"If Ostapenko is able to keep that emotional stability, concentration and play aggressively, she definitely has a good chance to win."


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 08, 2017, with the headline 'Pierce backs fearless Latvian to outlast Timea'. Print Edition | Subscribe