Ostapenko rediscovers art of dropshot in big Paris win

PARIS (Reuters) - Latvian Jelena Ostapenko is known on the tennis circuit for her aggressive play and booming groundstroke winners.

Oct 1, 2020; Paris, France; Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) in action during her match against Karolina Pliskova (CZE) on day five at Stade Roland Garros. Mandatory Credit: Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

But the former French Open champion has rediscovered her love for the dropshot in the colder and slower conditions of this year’s Roland Garros, and she put that weapon to good use on Thursday in her 6-4 6-2 second-round demolition of second seed Karolina Pliskova.

“I think I was using them when I was a junior, but then (for) some time I didn’t use them,” Ostapenko, who became champion in Paris in 2017 as an unseeded player, told reporters.

“I kind of forgot that I have this good shot, because I think I do good dropshots, sometimes winners, and it’s tough for girls. I think in these conditions the ball is bouncing super low, so it’s even tougher to get it back.”

This year’s French Open was moved to September from its usual May-June slot due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the autumn weather has made the claycourts more sluggish.

The 23-year-old Ostapenko, whose world ranking peaked at five in 2018, was aggressive from the outset against Pliskova under the closed Court Philippe Chatrier roof and hit 27 winners.

But she also used dropshots judiciously, often leaving Pliskova with too much ground to cover to reach them.

“Girls are expecting me always to hit the ball so strong, and especially here on clay it’s useful because the bounce is much lower because it’s much colder this year. I think it’s very useful,” said Ostapenko, currently ranked 43rd.

“Even if I can’t hit that ball, hit winners, sometimes to mix it up and the girls don’t expect it. I think I hit really good dropshots, like very close to the net so it’s hard to get them back.”

The variety helps, but consistency will be key if Ostapenko is to climb up the rankings ladder again and regularly challenge for titles.

“Of course it’s (2017) in my memory because it’s the biggest win of my career so far, but I have to move forward,” she said.

“The world doesn’t stop with winning only one Grand Slam. I want to achieve more and I want to be back in top five, top 10. Step by step...

“Still being aggressive player, I think it can bring me a lot of wins but consistency probably in my game is the key.”

Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; ; editing by John Stonestreet