Gauff-conqueror Ostapenko ‘never doubted’ she could win another Slam

MELBOURNE: Former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko said Sunday she never doubted she could win another major as she reached her first Grand Slam quarter-final since 2018.

The 2017 Roland Garros winner last reached the last eight of a Slam at Wimbledon four and a half years ago and has been clawing her way back into the elite after dropping outside the top 40 in 2019.

Now she faces current Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina for a place in the semi-finals after stunning seventh seed Coco Gauff 7-5, 6-3 in Melbourne.

Asked by reporters if she had ever thought a second Grand Slam title was beyond her, the Latvian world number 17 said: “I honestly haven’t really doubted it.”

She added: “I always knew and believed in my game. If I play well, I can beat almost anyone.”

Rybakina, of Kazakhstan, blew the women’s draw wide open by knocking out world number one Iga Swiatek a few minutes earlier.

The 25-year-old Ostapenko was just 19 when her life was changed by winning the French Open and she said it took a long time to adjust after being thrust into the spotlight.

“Everybody expected you almost to win every single tournament, which is crazy, because you are still a human and you cannot feel great every day,“ she said of the expectation placed on her young shoulders.

“I needed some time to get used to it. Of course, a lot of attention from everywhere outside the court, like photo shoots and all those kind of things.

“You become more popular in your country. Everybody is watching you. Of course it’s great, but I needed some time to get used to it.

“I’m just more hungry now to win another Grand Slam and just to play well, to be back in the top 10 and just to play consistent.”

Ostapenko will fancy her chances if she can get past Rybakina, with seven of the top 10 women’s seeds already culled in a tournament that has become a bloodbath for the game’s star names.

Swiatek’s defeat means the top two seeds in both the men’s and women’s singles are out before the quarter-finals for the first time at a major since the Open era began in 1968. – AFP