By Toby Davis
LONDON (Reuters) – Not even missing a succession of match points stopped Jelena Ostapenko swinging her racket with brutal intent.
The French Open champion, who has shaken up women’s tennis with her high-risk game, passed up seven chances to finish off Wimbledon opponent Elina Svitolina, but rather than go into her shell she merely took her high-risk game up a notch.
She eventually blasted her way into the quarter-finals for the first time with a 6-3 7-6(6) victory on Monday in which she struck a remarkable 42 winners and made 39 unforced errors.
To put those stats into perspective, her opponent, the Ukrainian fourth seed, hit 14 of each.
“I really needed to stay very aggressive to win the point,” the Latvian told reporters. “Even the match points, the rallies were really long. I really had to go for it to win the match.”
Ostapenko does not do defensive tennis and the idea that you might seek to win a point by waiting for your opponent to make a mistake is anathema to the hard-hitting Latvian.
The tactic seems to be working out well on Wimbledon’s fast lawns. The 13th seed, who faces Venus Williams in the next round, is now just three matches away from completing what would be astonishing grand slam double.
That would put her in elite company as only Serena Williams has won the French Open and Wimbledon back-to-back since Steffi Graf achieved the feat in 1996.
This was only her second win against a top five-player, following her success against Simona Halep in the final at Roland Garros, and despite a brief wobble in the second set it never looked in doubt.
She broke in the opening game with one of many forehand winners and again for a 4-1 lead.
The weaknesses in her game were also apparent, however, and the error count was also swiftly mounting as Svitolina broke back following an Ostapenko double fault.
That was not the start of a comeback, however, and Ostapenko wrapped up the first set with another break before racing into a 5-2 lead in the second.
Against Venus, she will probably need to be more ruthless than she was in finishing off Svitolina.
She passed up a match point at 5-2, four more in the following game and after being pegged back and forced into a tiebreak, where she missed two more chances to kill off the game, Svitolina netted a backhand to hand her opponent the match.
(Editing by Alexander Smith and Ed Osmond)