The winner of the “WTA Most Improved Player of the Year”, Jelena Ostapenko has had quite a year. From being ranked 71st in February, the Latvian went on to become a solid top-10 player with a Major title and ultimately ended her magical 2017 with a debut at the year-end WTA Finals, a prestigious tournament where only the top-eight players of the sport could participate.
Win-loss record: Best year in her career thus far
Ostapenko owns a 53-20 (.712) win-loss record throughout the year, earning four impressive top-10 wins along the way. 2017 has been palatial for the Latvian youngster, who abruptly claimed her maiden Grand Slam trophy. Furthermore, she also cracked the top-30 for the first time in her career, before breaking the top-10 in August.
Out of her 20 losses, only nine of them came against players of a lower ranking, which is a relatively outstanding statistic. Furthermore, six of her wins, which came consecutively, during her Paris campaign was against higher-ranked players, exhibiting how impressive her run was. She had a total of 20 wins against top-50 players. Also, she won the most three-set matches in WTA throughout 2017.
High Points of her season: Maiden Slam trophy, ability to show some consistency
Ostapenko came into 2017 ranked 44th, and the year seemed to be bright for the Latvian after she reached the semifinals at the ASB Classic in the first week of the season. She had a straightforward path to the last four, not losing a set in the process. Despite being tipped to claim the title, Ostapenko was unfortunately plagued by a viral illness and was forced to retire against Lauren Davis in the final set.
Nonetheless, despite the retirement, she rode on her momentum and entered the Australian Open unheralded. Losing less than four games in her opening matches, she seemed headed for a huge win after leading 5-2 in the final set against title favorite Karolina Pliskova in the third round. However, she failed to hold onto her lead, ultimately falling 8-10 in the decider.
A difficult stretch of results saw Ostapenko only regaining her form during the clay-court season. Unseeded going into the Volvo Car Open, the Latvian was ranked 66th but surprisingly sprung a run to the final, defeating world number 12 Caroline Wozniacki and Australian Open semifinalist Mirjana Lucic-Baroni along the way. However, she failed to continue her good run, putting in a flat performance and was conquered by fellow teenager Daria Kasatkina 3-6, 1-6 after just 66 minutes of play.
Another semifinal appearance on clay followed, this time at the Prague Open. Her run was furthermore impressive when she defeated three consecutive higher-ranked players, including second seed Wozniacki in a two-hour, 46-minute thriller. She was ultimately upset by the home favorite Kristyna Pliskova in the last four.
Ostapenko’s French Open campaign remained as a hot topic throughout the year, with many still in disbelief about how the youngster managed to defy the odds and prevail in Paris. Upsetting dark horse Samantha Stosur in the fourth round, the Latvian proceeded to outclass Wozniacki for the third consecutive time before conquering fellow birthday-girl Timea Bacsinszky in the semifinals for a first Major final. There, she produced an improbable comeback and looked in fierce form after trouncing over Simona Halep in three tough sets, coming from 4-6, 0-3 down to hoist her maiden Grand Slam title.
After her magical run, many pundits still had question marks around Ostapenko’s ability to rekindle her form. However, the youngster silenced all her doubters and stormed to the quarterfinals at Wimbledon, claiming some impressive wins along the way, including one over fifth seed Elina Svitolina. During her first ever quarterfinal appearance at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, she was too erratic and ultimately fell to the eventual finalist, Venus Williams.
The Asian Swing was one of a kind for Ostapenko, with her magnificent results allowing her to solidify her status as a top-10 player. Her breathtaking run started with her second career title at the Korea Open, strolling to the title in Seoul having not faced anyone in the top-70 en route to her triumph.
Ostapenko was winless at both the Wuhan Open and the China Open in her career but yet shocked everyone with her consistency; reaching back-to-back semifinals to reach a new career-high ranking of 7. During her runs, she also bested world number one Garbine Muguruza and former top-5 player Samantha Stosur.
Low Points of her season: Consistency issues once again
After a fair Australian swing which saw her achieve decent results, Ostapenko suffered from a drought which saw her fail to make any semifinals until the clay-court season. The Latvian failed to take advantage of a favorable draw at the St. Petersburg Ladies’ Trophy, falling to Donna Vekic in the opening round before another first-round exit followed in Dubai, this time being defeated by Wang Qiang. Her inability to defend her points in Doha from the previous year also caused her to drop to an all-year low ranking of 71.
The North American hardcourt swing was a huge opportunity for Ostapenko to add to her ranking points. However, she failed to capitalize on her chances, being ousted by Dominika Cibulkova in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open while qualifier Madison Brengle vanquished her chances of producing a deep run in Miami.
Ironically, despite her success at Roland Garros, Ostapenko failed to find her groove on the red clay early on. With a ranking of 50, the youngster even had to qualify for events in Stuttgart and Rome. On both occasions, Ostapenko managed to seal a spot in the main draw but failed to grab wins against higher-ranked opponents, falling early in both tournaments.
After her spectacular triumph in Paris, Ostapenko participated at the Aegon International hoping for a great run entering Wimbledon. There, she received a relatively tough draw and ultimately fell to eventual semifinalist and home favorite Johanna Konta in the third round.
Ostapenko struggled through the entire US Open Series. Considering her Wimbledon quarterfinal run, Ostapenko endured through a forgettable four-week span which saw her claim just two wins in the process. It all started with a first-round loss to Varvara Lepchenko at the Rogers Cup, losing a 6-1, 3-0 lead and her inability to convert her chances seemed to have dealt a huge blow to her confidence, reflecting in her opening-round defeat by Aleksandra Krunic in Cincinnati.
Although Ostapenko managed to snap the three-match losing streak at the US Open, she surprisingly fell to Daria Kasatkina in the third round, losing 12 of the last 14 games in the match and missing out on a golden opportunity for another deep run. Nonetheless, she still made her top-10 debut after the fortnight.
Making her debut at the WTA Finals, Ostapenko had a disappointing start after falling to Garbine Muguruza in her opening match. Furthermore, she wasted her opportunities against Venus Williams and was thus eliminated from the tournament. Though, she ended her breakthrough year on the best possible note, defeating semifinalist Karolina Pliskova 6-3, 6-1 after just an hour and six minutes of play.
Season Grade: A
This was an exceptional season for Ostapenko, who certainly achieved more than anyone would have expected. Proven by her results, the youngster has reached a new level of maturity while also being able to back up her successes. 2018 looks to be bright for the Latvian, who has a great future ahead of her.