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Pliskova condemns ‘terrible’ level in French Open defeat to Ostapenko

hannahwilks in French Open 01 Oct 2020
Karolina Pliskova during her defeat to Jelena Ostapenko (Credit Image: © Aurelien Morissard/IP3 via ZUMA Press)

Second seed Karolina Pliskova became the highest-ranked player to fall at the French Open as she lost to former champion Jelena Ostapenko.

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Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko knocked world no. 3 Karolina Pliskova out of the 2020 French Open 6-4, 6-2.

Ostapenko began the match by breaking to love and although she handed the advantage back immediately, went on to break Pliskova’s serve five more times through the course of the 70-minute defeat – not an impressive showing from the player nicknamed the ‘ace queen’.

Pliskova called her own performance ‘terrible’.

The Czech said:

‘I’m sure I could do much better. I know that she can be tough if she’s playing well, but I think everything started with me. I was definitely not playing great. I think maybe same level as the match before but of course she’s a much better player.’

Pliskova had been pushed to three sets by Egyptian qualifier Mayar Sherif in the first round before winning 6-7(9), 6-2, 6-4. The Czech reached the final at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome, where she was the defending champion, a week before the start of Roland Garros but retired in the final due to a thigh injury.

This is the sixth Grand Slam in a row that Pliskova has failed to make it to the quarterfinals despite being a top-eight seed. It is also the sixth time in nine French Open appearances that she has failed to win back-to-back matches. Pliskova’s best result at the French Open came in 2017 when she reached the semifinals.

Pliskova lost to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the third round of the Australian Open and Caroline Garcia in the second round of the US Open. She is 3-2 in Grand Slam matches in 2020 and 13-4 in WTA Tour matches.

Pliskova said:

‘I think I relaxed a bit in the second set. Of course, she was playing an ugly game. There was not much room or not many points where I would really feel great. But I was able to find a bit better level than in the first set. But like, never giving up. That’s the only thing that I can do, no matter how it goes. There’s always a chance against these players. For them it’s tough to close the match.’

Ostapenko never gave Pliskova the slightest chance. The two have played some lengthy matches, including their first meeting on the Grand Slam stage at the Australian Open in 2017 when Pliskova won 10-8 in the third set after Ostapenko had led 5-2. But there were no theatrics from the Latvian today. She played a steady, intelligent match, and displayed a more well-rounded game than the outright ball-bashing which saw her storm to an unlikely French Open victory three years ago as the world no. 47.

Now ranked world no. 43, Ostapenko had a torrid 2018 season which saw her plummet to world no. 83 before starting to rebound at the end of 2019 when she reached WTA Tour finals in Linz and Luxembourg, winning the latter.

Asked how her tennis today compared to the tennis she played to win the title in 2017, Ostapenko said:

‘It’s hard to compare because that was 3 years ago and I was fearless, nobody really knew me but now players get to know me more. Obviously they know me already. They know how I can play. They know how to play against me.’

Ostapenko could face Sloane Stephens, the French Open runner-up in 2018, in the third round.

Aryna Sabalenka, the eighth seed, also made it through to the last 32 on Thursday, squeezing through a tight first set against Daria Kasatkina before running away with the second 7-6(6), 6-0. Seventh seed Petra Kvitova glided through against Jasmine Paolini of Italy 6-3, 6-3.