Jelena Ostapenko begins the defence of her Roland Garros title on Sunday evening, taking on Kateryna Kozlova for a place in the second round. The Latvian is not considered to be in the top tier of contenders for the tournament despite last year but has showcased a top level that is hard to match for many, meaning she can’t be written off completely.
Ostapenko made just her second final since Paris in Miami, eventually losing in straight sets to Sloane Stephens. She has failed to build on that on clay, going just 3-3 across Stuttgart, Madrid and Rome. She had been showing signs of form in Rome, only to disappointingly falter in a tight three setter against Maria Sharapova. Her serve let her down when serving to stay in the match, giving up the break with a final set tiebreak in sight.
Kozlova heads into the tournament with a five match losing streak, dating back to the Taipei final in early February. Her loss to Veronica Cepede Royg in Nurnberg this past week was the first match she had played since a shock loss to Ashley Kratzer in the qualifying rounds of Indian Wells. She played a decent amount of clay court tennis last year although much of that came at ITF level with a Bastad quarter final the standout for her.
Even for someone as inconsistent as Ostapenko is, the first round seems a formality for her against an opponent low on matches this year – especially on clay. The Azarenka matchup in round two is a fascinating one even if the Belarussian is not at her strongest on clay courts.
Prediction – Jelena Ostapenko in straight sets