Interview | Jelena Ostapenko

The rising Latvian talent on season goals, family support and why grass is her favourite surface

Jelena Ostapenko
Jelena Ostapenko at Wimbledon 2016 | Carine06

By Stephen Higgins | 25 June 2016

At just 19, Latvia's Jelena Ostapenko is a top 40 player and has beaten Carla Suarez Navarro, Petra Kvitova and Svetlana Kuznetsova.

She was a junior champion at SW19 in 2014 and will be one to watch when the senior edition kicks off next week.

I had a brief chat with Ostapenko at this year's Katowice Open. Here's what she told me:

The backhand is clearly your strongest weapon. At what age did it develop into a really good shot?

I mean I also like my forehand. I like it and I can hit winners...but I mean in women’s tennis I think more than half of the women prefer backhand. I like to play backhand down-the-line.

You were the Junior Wimbledon champion in 2014. Were there many grass courts that you played on before you came over to England?

No, there are no single grass courts at home in Latvia because it’s so expensive to [keep] them. First year when I came to play Wimbledon juniors and Roehampton I kind of didn’t understand how to play on the surface because it’s totally different from all the others. And then every year I liked it more and more and I understood how to play on it and now it’s my favourite surface so I really like it.

Did you play on clay courts or hard courts growing up?

I mean both. It’s not like I played only on one. I mean I don’t really like clay courts but I have some good results on them, I’ve won some tournaments on clay courts.

Have you set yourself any goals for this year?

I set a goal last year to be top 100 and this year I’d like to be top 50 but after Doha I was already top 40 so now I just want to do as well as I can at all grand slams. It’s better to set a new goal and achieve it then to not set anything.

Did reaching the final of Doha convince you that you could compete with the top players?

Yeah I think it gave me kind of confidence because when I played against Kvitova and Kuznetsova they are both great players, two grand slam champions, and it gave me kind of confidence that I can play at that level.

Any areas of your game that you’re working to improve?

For sure there are still many things to improve in my game. Like serve maybe, second serve. There are many things to improve so I think that it’s good to have things to improve so I can get better.

How important is the support of your family on tour?

They help me so much. My mother is still coaching me and I really like it because she knows me the best. My dad, he’s also helping me, he’s travelling with me so I really appreciate it.