FRENCH OPEN UPDATE • PARIS • KOZLOVA SHOCKS DEFENDING LADIES CHAMPION OSTAPENKO

Written by: on 27th May 2018
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French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros
FRENCH OPEN UPDATE • PARIS • KOZLOVA SHOCKS DEFENDING LADIES CHAMPION OSTAPENKO

epa06767294 Kateryna Kozlova of the Ukraine in action against Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia during their women?s first round match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 27 May 2018. EPA/GUILLAUME HORCAJUELO  |
Kateryna Kozlova of the Ukraine in action against Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia during their women’s first round match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 27 May 2018. EPA/GUILLAUME HORCAJUELO

 

 

By Richard Pagliario

Contributing Editior Francisco Resendiz

 

The service box looked as large as a mailbox to Jelena Ostapenko, who couldn’t squeeze a second serve into the slot.

 

Bamboozled by Kateryna Kozlova’s soft drop shots and betrayed by swirling self doubt on her sporadic serve, the defending Roland Garros champion bottomed out in a stunning upset.

 

Kozlova broke serve seven times and won six of the final seven games shocking Ostapenko, 7-5, 6-3, to score her first career French Open victory and first Top 30 win of her career.

 

The fifth-seeded Ostapenko is the first reigning Roland Garros champion to fall in the first round since 2004 champion Anastasia Myskina crashed out of the opening round 13 years ago and just the second defending champion to exit the French Open first round in 50 years.

 

Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia in action against Kateryna Kozlova of the Ukraine during their women?s first round match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 27 May 2018. EPA/GUILLAUME HORCAJUELO

“It was a terrible day at the office for me; I played maybe 20 percent of how I can play,” said Ostapenko, who revealed she incurred an injury in Rome, asked Roland Garros organizers for a later first-round start but was denied that request.

 

Ostapenko’s opening-round exit came hours after ninth-seeded Venus Williams suffered her second straight Grand Slam first-round loss and 2010 champion Francesca Schiavone lost in two tiebreak sets.

 

The 66th-ranked Ukrainian seldom showed any signs of stress defeating Ostapenko for the third time in as many meetings.

 

Playing with a silver-dollar sized blister on the back of her heel that required a medical time-out after the opening set, Kozlova exposed Ostapenko’s Achilles’ heel—a skittish serve. Ostapenko spit up 13 double faults—a full three games worth of double faults—including double faulting away two service breaks in succession late in the second set.

 

Casting nervous glances at her mother and coach, David Taylor, Ostapenko could not find control at critical stages.

 

The 20-year-old Latvian served 47 percent, doubled Kozlova’s unforced error output (48 to 22) and spent much of the match either chasing her toss which strays too far to her left at times or catching the toss.

 

Serving at 2-4, Ostapenko spun an ace out wide to save a break point only to commit her fourth double fault. Ostapenko hung tough through an up-and-down, five-deuce game navigating a hard-fought hold.

 

Pounding the palm of her left hand against the strings of her Wilson Blade as if trying to loosen the tension, Ostapenko changed racquets during the eighth game. Then got even.

 

A high backhand volley followed by a backhand bolt down the line battered out the break as Ostapenko leveled after eight games.

 

Tracking down drives with vigor and sometimes sliding sharp-angled slice replies, Kozlova coaxed errors to break back for 5-4.

 

With one Grand Slam victory to her credit, Kozlova stepped up to serve for a one-set lead against the reigning champion. Ostapenko broke to extend the set, but the series of breaks continued.

 

Running around her backhand, Kozlova treated Ostapenko’s second serve as target practice tagging a return down the line to break back.

 

Kateryna Kozlova of the Ukraine in action against
Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia during their women?s first round match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 27 May 2018. EPA/GUILLAUME HORCAJUELO

Kozlova closed the set when Ostapenko flagged a forehand into net, but her struggle wasn’t over.

 

Taking a medical time-out after the set, Kozlova had a nasty-looking blister on the back of her heel patched up by the trainer.

 

Each time Ostapenko made progress, she was often victimized by her opponent’s drop shot or her own escalating double faults.

 

The reigning champion squandered a 2-0 second-set lead. Ostapenko slapped her 10th double fault into net donating a second straight break and 3-2 lead to the underdog.

 

As the set esacalated, Ostapenko’s control over her second serve dissipated. For the second straight service game she double-faulted away the break—her 13th double fault—as Kozlova edged ahead with her sixth service break of the day.

 

Kozlova cranked a backhand down the line to open the court then slid backhand crosscourt holding at 30 for 5-3.

 

Trying to make a final stand, Ostapenko, who rallied from a set down four times en route to the French Open title last year, stumbled.

 

The champion floated a backhand long to face double match point that pasted a backhand into net ending a 94-minute match with a brief handshake and farewell wave to crowd.

 

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