Exactly two years ago Eugenie Bouchard sat in the main press interview room after winning the girls’ singles. On Sunday it was the turn of Jelena Ostapenko to sit in the hot seat after recovering from a set down to triumph over No.8 seed Kristina Schmiedlova.
Like Bouchard, who is now ranked No.13 in the world and appeared in the ladies’ singles final on Saturday, the Latvian has a goal. “I think I have to maybe follow her and try to do the same,” she said. “I will try my best. I think she improved really a lot and she’s one of the best players on the tour.”
The 17-year-old overcame a shaky start to see off Kristina Schmiedlova 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 in 91 minutes in a contest played against a Centre Court chorus of claps and cheers as Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic simultaneously contested the gentlemen’s singles.
The girls had met one week earlier on the lawns of Roehampton in the final of the Nike Junior International. On that occasion, Ostapenko dropped only five games on her way to victory but she was made to work far harder on the grander stage of No.1 Court in a hard-hitting, baseline game that saw both girls pinned to the back of the court.
Her Slovakian opponent was seemingly out for revenge. Initially the sharper and faster, her booming serve was in full flow and it wasn’t long before her devastating ground strokes began to take their toll on Ostapenko who began missing easy balls.
Before long Schmiedlova had skipped to a 5-2 lead. Although she made a meal of closing out the opener – being made to defend three break points – she eventually pocketed it on her fourth set point when Ostapenko netted a forehand return.
“In the first set I was a bit nervous,” Ostapenko admitted. “My opponent, she started the match really well and she was playing really good. I was doing some unforced errors. Then I just tried to come back in the second set and focus on every point to get back my game. It helped and I won.”
Unlike Schmiedlova, who experienced a tough three-set match in the semi-finals, Ostapenko sailed through her last four encounter dropping just three games and, perhaps unsurprisingly, it was the Slovakian, sporting tape to her right upper arm, who appeared to visibly tire in the second set.
By the third set, Ostapenko was unstoppable – she whipped up 40 winners in the entire match compared with 17 from the 16-year-old – and afterwards admitted the grass was tailor-made for her game. “You have to serve well and play very aggressive,” she said.
Reflecting on her fairtytale Wimbledon, Ostapenko added: “I love everything here because I think it’s one of the best Grand Slams. The atmosphere here is really nice, the people are really nice, also the grass courts. That everyone is playing in white clothes. I think it looks really nice.”
The newly crowned girls’ singles champion, who now has nine junior titles to her name, admitted she hadn’t considered a choice of outfit for the Champions Ball.
Her now priority is ascending the ranks and quite possibly emulating the success of Canada's golden girl, Bouchard.
“Maybe, after winning junior Grand Slam, I will try to improve my ranking in the WTA and try to, in the end of the year, be maybe top 300, 200 in the WTA,” she smiled.
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