The reigning French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko said Monday she thinks the No. 1 ranking in women's tennis is open to any top-10 player in the world, saying youngsters, including herself, will emerge as powerhouses.
Ostapenko, currently world No. 10, came to South Korea last Friday to compete at the KEB HanaBank Incheon Airport Korea Open, the country's only Women's Tennis Association Tour event, which starts at Olympic Park in Seoul on Monday. She is the top-seeded player of the tournament and will face No. 85 Johanna Larsson of Sweden on Tuesday.
Ostapenko, 20, became the first player from Latvia to win a Grand Slam tournament after defeating Simona Halep of Romania in the French Open final in June. It was her first WTA Tour-level singles title.
Now one of the rising stars in the WTA, Ostapenko said women's tennis is becoming anyone's game, and the No. 1 spot is open to anyone inside the top 10 in world rankings. Currently, Garbine Muruguza of Spain is the top-ranked female player, followed by Halep and Elina Svitolina of Ukraine.
Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia speaks to reporters at Incheon International Airport in Incheon on Sept. 15, 2017. (Yonhap)
"I think it's very open for anyone to be No. 1 from the top 10, because almost all the players are playing a pretty similar game," Ostapenko said during a press conference in Seoul. "Also, we see there's a lot of young players coming up."
Ostapenko, the first unseeded player to win the French Open since 1933, is currently the youngest player in the top 10, but she believes more young players will join her in the future. She had ranked just 47th in the world before earning the stunning victory at Roland Garros.
"I think our generation like (those born in) 1997 is very strong since you can see some five or six players inside the top 50," he said. "So I think it's now time for a new generation to come."
Ostapenko is known for her aggressive style of play, as she relies on powerful strokes to produce winners. The former Junior Wimbledon champion said she tried to hit the ball hard from the day she learned tennis. And she tries to maintain her style of play even when she is in a tight match.
"I try to stay aggressive, be consistent and play smart," she said. "But I try not to hit every ball. When I have a chance, I just go for that."
Ostapenko is the first current Grand Slam winner to play at the Korea Open since 2004, when Maria Sharapova came here after winning Wimbledon. She said she enjoys being a major champion.
"In my country, I had a visit with the president," she said. "Tennis is also more popular, and it's really nice to see many kids are coming to play tennis."
Ostapenko said she came to South Korea after she heard "many good things about the tournament." In her first visit, Ostapenko added that she also wants to look around the city and enjoy food here.
"I will try to win as many matches as I can, and if I play good, I'll be happy," she said. "I really like the country, and hopefully I can have couple days to explore the city." (Yonhap)