I did not pick Jelena Ostapenko to win the 2017 Roland Garros title. Her free-swinging game was a great revelation over the past two weeks. She serves with snap. Her forehand is nasty. Her backhand can do damage. She moves well and plays with enthusiasm. Her victory sends notice to the world that she could be a champion for years to come.
Still, down a set and 0-3 to the #3 seed, Ostapenko looked more like Martin Verkerk than Juan Carlos Ferrero. Down 1-3 in the 3rd set after a plethora of errors, Ostapenko again looked beaten. Her ability to hit her way out of trouble in the 2nd and 3rd sets was amazing. Simona Halep will be thinking about failing to convert leads in both of those sets, but when Ostapenko was crushing the ball much of the match depended on forces beyond Halep’s control.
I guess a big question going forward will be whether this was a one-hit wonder or a statement of coming victories. Pete Sampras was seeded in 1990, but his US Open win was somewhat unexpected. Sampras of course went on to make history. Marin Cilic won the 2014 US Open in an unexpected run of dominant form. Cilic has had nice moments since that time, but he does not appear to be a likely multi-slam winner.
That moment when you realize Ostapenko has better forehand speed than Murray pic.twitter.com/3Sg7HMpTbb
— Champ10n (@MessiChips) June 8, 2017
Will Monica Puig rediscover the form that led her to Rio gold or will she be a player who hit her stride at the right time? Ostapenko will face scrutiny like that until she back up this result. Backing up the result does not always entail winning a second major. Angelique Kerber’s 2016 Wimbledon runner-up finish and silver medal backed up her 2016 Australian Open title. Kerber winning the US Open in 2016 cemented it. However, if Ostapenko, like Kerber in 2016, makes impressions on big events in the near future her life will be much easier when it comes to press scrutiny. I have no idea how things will turn out for her. Of course, this Roland Garros title can never be taken from her. I think her shot-making ability, explosive forehand, and mobility bode well for her. As tennis is always producing new contender, I think it is fair to hope that this bright light is more of a star than a shooting star.