Photo: Gill ElliottJelena Ostapenko (LAT)
Promising Junior Jelena Ostapenko is the featured player for April having spent the month competing in Italy where she picked up a trio of singles titles.
Although Ostapenko is still only 16-years-old and has been splitting her time between the Junior Circuit and Pro Circuit she entered the month with a ranking just inside the Top 800 in the world.
A pair of titles at $10,000 events in Helsinki and Helsingborg last year showed her potential and she also broke into the Latvian Fed Cup team helping them first gain promotion and then maintain their status in Europe/Africa Zone Group I over the last 12 months.
Santa Margherita di Pula on the island of Sardinia provided the venue for each of the five events during the course of April and saw Ostapenko make an impressive return to the Circuit having not competed since February.
In the first event of the month the Latvian progressed as far as the semifinals with her most notable victory coming in the second round against seventh-seeded Anna Shkudin, who she saw off in straight sets. Her run came to an end against Spaniard Ines Ferrer-Suarez where despite taking the first set she was upended 46 60 64.
The experience of the opening week brought its dividends, however, as Ostapenko grew in confidence and had built some momentum entering week number two. Straight sets victories in the first three rounds of the tournament were followed by a stiffer test against fifth seed Tatiana Bua. The Argentinian took a tight opening set but the match turned in the second set tiebreak where Ostapenko held her nerve to level the scores before coming through 57 76(4) 62 to book a place in the final.
Prior to the culmination of the singles, Ostapenko along with partner Mana Ayukawa had progressed to the final of the doubles event where they faced top seeds Alice Balducci and Diana Buzean. The teams split the opening sets to reach a match tiebreak where Ostapenko and Ayukawa upset the odds to take the title and earn the Latvian her sixth career doubles title.
With one trophy already in the bag it didn’t take long for Ostapenko to add the singles crown as she took out Jade Suvrijn in the singles final 76(4) 61 in one of the most impressive victories of her career to date.
Week three was a relative disappointment following the highs that came before it. Pairing once again with Ayukawa there was a tight defeat in the first round of the doubles event against Charlotte Roemer and Olga Saez Larra 61 36 12-10. After recovering from a set down against Sara Eccel in her opening singles match Ostapenko had appeared ready to continue her win-streak but came unstuck in the quarterfinals by the slightest of margins, losing out to Sara Sorribes Tormo 46 75 76(5).
Perhaps benefitting from the extra recovery time afforded by the early losses Ostapenko ripped through the draw in the penultimate week in Santa Margherita di Pula. Five victories without losing a set earned Ostapenko her second title of 2014 and having switched partners to play alongside Rosalie van der Hoek also took the doubles title.
Ostapenko didn’t suffer the same drop in form in the last week of April as she had after her previous title. Strong performances saw her ease into the semifinals where light work was also made of the fifth seed Martina Caregaro as she dropped just four games to advance to another final.
This time Ostapenko, with a perfect record in finals in her career with five singles titles from five appearances on the line, met Balducci who was ranked some 200 places above her. That run looked in jeopardy when she dropped the opening set but for a second time in the month turned the match around in the second set tiebreak to win 46 76(1) 63.
The cumulative effect of the month’s work was a rise to the brink of the Top 500 in the rankings, which is a career high for the emerging Latvian. With a view to continuing to compete at the Junior level at the more prestigious events whilst scheduling further Pro tournaments, Jelena Ostapneko could be a name to look out for in the coming months.