Is Jelena Ostapenko the game’s biggest thrill-seeker? The Latvian talks openly about her love of riding roller coasters and sky-diving, with her mother – also Jelena – once having to talk her daughter out of leaping from Auckland’s 220-metre Sky Tower.
It was thrill-seeking of another kind that featured as the No.12 seed recovered from a 2-5 first set deficit to defeat Aliaksandra Sasnovich 7-6(4), 6-0 and progress to a second straight quarter-final at Wimbledon.
Before the first competitive ball was even struck in the fourth round, it seemed clear that Ostapenko would provide the No.3 Court crowd with entertainment and astonishment in equal measure. Her first mis-hit came in the pre-match warm-up – prompting a giggling apology from the 21-year-old and an appreciative chortle from those assembling.
But things soon turned serious for the 2014 Wimbledon girls’ title holder and 2017 Roland-Garros champion.
The first game of the 78-minute match featured a bit of everything from Ostapenko: a stunning backhand winner, an unsuccessful challenge, a couple of errors, plus a double fault and even a foot fault. With a break surrendered in that opening service game, it highlighted you could expect anything from the Latvian.
Sasnovich, on the other hand, was simply sturdy. Where Ostapenko is expressive, hard-hitting and sometimes error-prone, the Belarusian is more a quiet achiever. The conqueror of two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova played with impressive composure as she immediately capitalised on break points earned in Ostapenko’s opening two service games to gain a quick 3-0 advantage.
Just as Dominika Cibulkova had emphasised her displeasure about being denied a Wimbledon seeding by the elevation of seven-time champion Serena Williams, she has since made her on-court intentions equally clear. The world No.33 has reached her third quarter-final at the All England Club, and is yet to drop a set.
Cibulkova overpowered Su-Wei Hsieh 6-4, 6-1 in a match that contained 11 service breaks in its one hour, 22 minutes. So thrilled was Cibulkova with the result that when a Hsieh return sailed long on the first match point she threw herself onto the worn baseline on court 18 and celebrated almost as if she had won the title.
Given the seeded exodus from the ladies' singles draw, the Slovakian still might. At a Championship now bereft of top 10 seeds, the 2014 Australian Open finalist plays No.12 Jelena Ostapenko for a place in her third Grand Slam semi-final.
"She won a Grand Slam, so she know what it takes,'' Cibulkova said of her Latvian opponent. "You never know what to expect from her. In this tournament, she seems to be in the right mood. She's playing with no fear. She just going for it. I think it's going to be a match with a lot of rallies, aggressive rallies, a lot of winners.''
|Karolina Pliskova (7)||CZE||3||6 (1)|
|Kiki Bertens (20)||NED||6||7 (7)||-|
|End||Jelena Ostapenko (12)||LAT||7 (7)||6||-|
|Aliaksandra Sasnovich||BLR||6 (4)||0||-|
|End||Angelique Kerber (11)||GER||6||7 (7)||-|
|Belinda Bencic||SUI||3||6 (5)||-|
|End||Julia Goerges (13)||GER||6||6||-|
|End||Alison Van Uytvanck||BEL||7 (8)||3||2|
|Daria Kasatkina (14)||RUS||6 (6)||6||6|
photo Getty Images
Photo: Rémy Gros