Positive Penko powers past “great” Gauff

LATVIAN power player Jelena Ostapenko is just three wins away from her second Grand Slam title, after advancing into the quarterfinals of the 2023 Australian Open. The world number 17 booked her spot in the final eight following an impressive upset over American seventh seed Coco Gauff, who was previously unbeaten in 2023 following a WTA250 title in Auckland.

It seems an eternity since Ostapenko won the 2017 Roland Garros title having only just turned 20 years-old. Now 25 and just three titles in the past five years, Ostapenko is hoping to continue her rise back up the rankings. After working past Gauff in straight sets, 7-5 6-3, Ostapenko thanked the ground for making it an “amazing atmosphere”.

“Of course I knew she’s such a great play, super young and she’s playing really well and she was fighting until the very last point,” Ostapenko said. “I really had nothing to lose so I went there and tried to show my best and try to fight for every point and make it really hard for her. I’m really happy with the win.”

Despite facing break points in the first set, Ostapenko remained “positive” and aimed to get back to her brand of tennis, aggressive baseline hitting that matched the American youngster in their Round of 16 clash.

“I was just trying to stay positive all the time and I knew I have to play aggressive to beat her so I was trying to step in the court,” Ostapenko said. “Even when I miss some balls, I knew if I do everything right I’m going to put the same balls in the court and at the end I think I kept her under so much pressure, and it brought me a win.”

Never one to shy away from outspoken opinions, Ostapenko said she did not have faith in the new electronic line system, as she suggested by consistently looking to her coaches box for reassurances.

“I don’t know I feel like it makes some mistakes, but I don’t know,” she said. “Obviously we have to play and sometimes I look at my team because sometimes I know I’m wrong but I feel like some balls are pretty close when I look at my team.”

Ostapenko faces Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina in the quarterfinals, a fellow one-time Grand Slam winner. In their previous two meetings, the Latvian has got the better of her younger opponent, winning in straight sets at Eastbourne in 2021, and Linz in 2019.

Funnily enough the two have face off twice this year already, but in doubles. On both occasions, Rybakina and her partner Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova have taken home the chocolates. Despite the 2-0 singles record, Ostapenko knows she will need to be at her best to defeat the rising talent.

“I think she serves well,” Ostapenko said. ‘But the most important is to play my game again aggressive and keep her under the pressure and we see what happens. I’ll try to enjoy it as much as possible.”

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