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By Randy Walker



Jelena Ostapenko’s upset win at the French Open is the biggest story in the history of tennis in the nation of Latvia. Ostapenko is the first player from the small Eastern European country, once part of the Soviet Union, to win a major singles title.

I only know a few people from Latvia – one of them is Martins Podzus, who was the singles runner-up in 2016 at the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships in Vero Beach, Florida, the USTA Pro Circuit “Futures” event for which I serve as co-tournament director. Another is Agnese Rozite, the former University of Mobile tennis player and St. John’s women’s assistant coach who I met via New York City tennis networking circles with her company Bijou Tennis and with whom I have had many entrepreneurial tennis conversations.

I emailed them both to get some perspective on Ostapenko’s win in Latvia. To my surprise, Rozite, replied quickly saying she was with Ostapenko in Paris, having flown to Paris to support her after her semifinal win and sitting in her player box during the final.

“Her win is a really big thing in Latvia,” Rozite wrote. “Even people who know nothing about tennis now know about the importance of her achievement. Her match was televised on a big screen next to the Freedom Monument and that’s as special as it gets in Riga, Latvia. A lot of people knew about her before as she has received numerous sporting awards, but this is worthy of a special medal from the government!”

Rozite is seven years older than the 20-year-old Ostapenko but remembered her as a feisty young player when she was just getting started in the game.

“I do remember, when she was very young, around seven or eight playing with her mom at the same club I trained at sometimes,” Rozite wrote. “She was just a little girl, talented of course back then already, but nobody was thinking that Latvia can raise a Grand Slam tournament champion. It has always seemed that only bigger countries can do it, so now everybody in Latvia believes that they can achieve greatness as well. I think that’s just so inspiring for all the kids playing in Latvia.”

Ostapenko had 54 winners and 54 unforced errors in her final-round win over Simona Halep and Rozite had an interesting observation on this. “Her winners are just insane,” she wrote. “When she is ‘on’ there’s nobody that can beat her. Even with equal amount (and a crazy big amount) of winners and errors she can still come on top of of the elite players, and to me – that’s just shows how good she is.”

Rozite also had dinner with Ostapenko and her mother after the final, saying that the new star of women’s tennis was still receiving many calls and messages from fans and friends. There wasn’t much conversation about her tennis or the championship, Rozite joking “She said all of her thoughts to all the media about everything 10 times already!”

Rozite predicted even more success for her friend and countrywoman saying she will not be a flash-in-the-pan player and not even a “One Slam Wonder.” In fact, Rozite anticipated that Ostapenko will be a threat to win another major as early as Wimbledon. If not this year, Rozite feels that more great success will come for Ostapenko at the All England Club on the Wimbledon grass.

“She won junior Wimbledon just three years ago, so she certainly feels confident going into it,” she said. “Also, I don’t think her personality ‘feels’ pressure, but maybe her success hasn’t sunk in yet. However, I do think focusing on the next tournament is helpful, especially on such a different surface. She handles pressure like nobody else. I truly believe she will have many more titles and this is just a beginning!”

Ostapenko and Rozite

Ostapenko and Rozite

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About Admin
Randy Walker is a communications and marketing specialist, writer, tennis historian and the managing partner of New Chapter Media – www.NewChapterMedia.com. He was a 12-year veteran of the U.S. Tennis Association’s marketing and communications division where he worked as the press officer for 22 U.S. Davis Cup ties, three Olympic tennis teams and was an integral part of USTA media services team for 14 US Opens. He is the author of the books ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY and THE DAYS OF ROGER FEDERER

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