2017 French Open champion and 10th seed Jelena Ostapenko begins her US Open campaign against a tricky first-round obstacle in the shape of former-world #9 Andrea Petkovic of Germany. Ostapenko has had some fine results since that memorable win at Roland Garros, but a first-round defeat there this year to Kateryna Kozlova must have rankled. And though Petkovic may not quite be the player she once was, she still has the quality to spring a surprise. Who will come out on top?
Ostapenko and Petkovic have met just once previously. That match came two years ago in Doha in the semifinals. Ostapenko won it when Petkovic retired with injury trailing 5-7 0-1. In terms of experience, though it is Ostapenko who is the Grand Slam champion, Petkovic, nearly a decade her elder, has a greater well of experience from which to draw. She is playing her 11th US Open and made the last eight in 2011. Ostapenko is making just her fourth trip to New York and has never been to the second week.
Last time out
After the disappointment of her failure to defend her title in Paris, Ostapenko travelled to Eastbourne, where she reached the quarterfinals, losing to Radwanska. She then impressed in reaching the semifinals at Wimbledon but lost to Angelique Kerber there in straight sets. In Toronto she was edged out by Johanna Konta in the first round and she fared no better in Cincinnati where she lost first-time out to Alize Cornet. The manner of that 6-1 5-7 0-6 defeat will be a concern.
Petkovic’s Wimbledon ended in a 4-6 3-6 defeat to Yanina Wickmayer in the second round and the German did not return to action for the better part of a month, before competing at the Washington Open. She played well there, upsetting Sloane Stephens and Belinda Bencic on her way to the semifinals but there she was outclassed by Svetlana Kuznetsova. But she lost first round in the Cincinnati qualifying before retiring from a second round clash with Puig in New Haven.
How do they match up?
Ostapenko is certainly one of the WTA Tour’s big-hitters, if such a term can do justice to the way she hits the ball. At Wimbledon in 2017 it was revealed that her average forehand speed was faster than then-ATP #1 Andy Murray’s. And it is that forehand that Petkovic will have to watch out for. Ostapenko strikes it with a terrific combination of spin and pace and when it warms up Ostapenko takes some serious stopping. Especially because her backhand is a useful weapon in its own right.
Petkovic cannot match Ostapenko’s power off the ground and is a wily enough competitor to know not to try. But the German is always a difficult opponent thanks to her excellent backhand and her ability to keep opponent’s unsettled by changing up the looks she gives them. She also defends very well. It was that excellent court coverage that fired her to an upset win over Petra Kvitova in the first round in Melbourne in January and she will be pull off another upset New York.
Neither woman comes into this match in particularly sparkling form. But there are still reasons that Ostapenko is in the top 10 and that Petkovic is outside the world’s top 90. One of those is that Petkovic has struggled to maintain her fitness over the past few seasons and she does not look to be 100% fit coming into this match. Coming up against an opponent of Ostapenko’s quality carrying an injury, no matter how small, is rarely a recipe for victory. Ostapenko in straight sets.