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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Thursday June 24, 2021

Former Wimbledon semifinalist Jelena Ostapenko is once again finding her A game on the grass. The Latvian has moved into the semifinals of the Viking International at Eastbourne, and will take on Elena Rybakina for a spot in the final on Friday.

Tennis Express

Rybakina saved a pair of match points to defeat Anastasija Sevastova, 2-6, 7-6(7), 7-6(5).

Italy’s Camila Giorgi and Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit will square off in the top helf semifinal at Eastbourne on Friday.

Ostapenko will like her chances amongst that quartet after a confidence-boosting performance in her quarterfinal match against  Russia’s Daria Kasatkina. The Latvian rallied from a set own to notch a 1-6, 7-5, 6-2 victory in the pair’s first meeting since 2017, and fifth overall (3-2 head-to-head for Ostapenko).

"The main thing probably, I was playing more aggressive today and I tried to put as much pressure as possible on her," World No.43 Ostapenko said after the match. "Obviously not in the first set but in the second set I was fighting very hard to win it and I think in the third set I already found my game and played much better."

Ostapenko’s Love Affair with Grass

Impressively, Ostapenko jumps to 24-13 lifetime on grass with Thursday’s triumph. After the match, in her virtual press conference, she told reporters that she cannot get enough of grass-court tennis.

"Honestly I get very excited, but when it starts I get very sad," she said of the four-week grass-court season (typically five). "Because it's very short the grass season - it's only like three or four tournaments, the grass season - I wish it could be longer because I love to play on grass."

The 24-year-old believes that grass makes it harder for her opponents to defend against her jaw-dropping power strokes, and when she clicks her game into place she grows in confidence.

"I think when I find my game like in the third set today, and when I play aggressive and I play well, I think [grass] suits my game very well, because it's much harder to move and the rallies are a bit shorter.

"Now of course grass is getting a little bit slower, but still it's much harder to move, so I think I have an advantage. I have advantages because I hit the ball hard and I can make more winners and as I said the rallies can be shorter."

Ostapenko was disappointed to suffer a second-round defeat at Birmingham last week to Tereza Martincova, but she says she was just not ready to play well after having just a few games to practice on grass before the tournament.

"Honestly before my first match in Birmingham I had only two days on grass," she said. "I didn't really expect to play so well in Birmingham, I knew it was like the first tournament and I knew I need some time to adjust to the surface as we didn't play for two years on it. I was just trying to find my game and practice a bit more on grass to get used to it, and now I feel much better than in Birmingham."

I Can Do Damage

Ostapenko will be one of the most dangerous unseeded players in Friday’s Wimbledon draw, and she knows she can be a factor there if she keeps improving.

She says her trip to the semis at Eastbourne is a positive, but she wants much more than that.

"It's great but of course I want to achieve more and be back in the Top 10 because when I play well I think I can make a lot of damage, obviously, as in the third set today, but yeah, I'm just taking one match at a time and trying to prepare for Wimbledon, but of course also to play well here, because grass court, as I said, is a very short season.”

Ostapenko, the 2017 Roland-Garros champion and a former World No.5, is hopeful that she’s on the path to a second major title. She believes that the women’s game is wide open and there will be opportunities for her to take advantage.

"It can be any time honestly, as you see now, so many new Grand Slam champions, so the field is pretty open. I just have to work hard and have my mind be in the right place, and that is going to help, I think."


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