This summer has been life changing for Jelena Ostapenko, who spent last Wednesday evening as a sponsored guest on the rooftop of the HGU New York Hotel in NoMad.
It’s just one of many new doors to open for Ostapenko, who is better known as “Alona” in her native Latvia. In June, she became the first unseeded woman to win the French Open since 1933 with her defeat of second-seeded Simona Halep in the final.
“My life changed a little bit,” Ostapenko told amNewYork. “I’m getting more attention from everyone. It’s a little bit tougher because it’s more pressure.”
After winning at Roland Garros and reaching the quarterfinals at Wimbledon, the 20-year-old Ostapenko will head into the U.S. Open, which begins Monday, as the 12th-seeded women’s singles player. This year’s tournament at Flushing Meadows will not include the sport’s biggest star, as Serena Williams is expecting the birth of her first child later this year.
Williams’ absence will perhaps set the stage for a young emerging talent like Ostapenko to headline the next generation of women’s tennis. Ostapenko, along with 23-year-old Garbine Muguruza are the only active players under age 25 to have won a women’s singles Grand Slam.
“I have my confidence because I know I played very well at the French,” Ostapenko said. “I just have to focus on my game and take it one match at a time.”
Ostapenko will matchup Tuesday against world No. 61 Lara Arruabarrena in the first round. She hopes to replicate her style of play in Paris for the year’s final major in Queens.
“I was playing very aggressive but also very consistent,” Ostapenko said. “Some matches I was down, but I was fighting until the last point. I think if I put it all together, I can do really well [at the U.S. Open].”