Jelena Ostapenko claims respect can be a player’s undoing

Jelena Ostapenko 2023 US Open
Jelena Ostapenko on court at the 2023 US Open

Former Grand Slam winner Jelena Ostapenko has warned against the dangers of respecting other players too much.

Ostapenko believes that respect for icons and legends of the game can be a player’s undoing when they have to face their heroes.

She recalls a tight loss to Serena Williams in Fed Cup action a few years back when she believes that she allowed herself to be awed costing her a match she feels she might have won.

“Sometimes when you respect someone too much, it can put pressure on you,” Ostapenko said on the WTA Insider Podcast.

“In Everett, when we played Fed Cup [in 2020], I was playing against Serena and she was always my idol. I lost to her 6-7, 6-7. I felt like I was playing really well. When it came to the tiebreak, in both sets, in my head I thought, ‘Oh my god, I’m playing Serena.’ She was always my idol. I felt this didn’t help me to win.

“She can be my idol, but when I play against her I have to forget these things and I just have to see her as a player.”

Ostapenko feels that she plays her best tennis when she is putting her opponent under pressure rather than feeling the heat herself.

“I feel like I was winning matches, especially in 2017, by putting a lot of pressure on the opponent, like in the final of the French Open,” Ostapenko said.

“I was still playing my game. Of course, I can miss some balls. This is normal. I am not a robot. I can miss a few balls there, a few balls here.

“But the main thing is to put pressure by yourself. There are players, like Sabalenka, she’s playing this very well. I think she found the right balance and that works good for her. I feel like our style is a little bit similar, so she’s a good example of that.”

Ostapenko has made a promising start to her season and is currently hovering in and around the top ten.

READ MORE: Maturity and confidence key for double-winner Jelena Ostapenko

Increasingly it appears that there is a growing pool of WTA Tour stars who look capable of winning big titles.

Ostapenko is already a Major winner from her 2017 French Open triumph, but it wouldn’t be a great surprise if she was able to win a WTA 1000 or Grand Slam title this season.

She is currently the player who is second in both matches won and matches played this season, trailing only Elena Rybakina.

Ostapenko has won titles in Adelaide and Linz already this season.

She will not be in action in the coming week with tournaments in San Diego and Austin the WTA Tour offering in the ninth week of the season.