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Island Gal Jelena Ostapenko kicks off Maldives vacation after ‘strange’ season finale
The former Roland Garros champion is chasing summer into the off-season and is already planning her favorite holiday (her birthday) next year.
Published Nov 16, 2022
WATCH: Ostapenko surged to start the 2022 season, winning her fifth WTA title in Dubai.
Jelena Ostapenko was far from island paradise as she stood in a near-empty Dickies Arena corridor. The WTA Finals were about to begin but the former Roland Garros champion was feeling loose, commanding a small crowd’s attention in a sequined blazer and a pair of sparkly boots coveted by none other than WTA President Micky Lawler.
“I’m not sure who makes them,” the Latvian mutters, twisting her foot in search of a label or logo.
The surreal moment was on-brand given the circumstances: no stranger to a major WTA tournament, Ostapenko admitted her doubles berth with Lyudmyla Kichenok was decidedly lower-stakes than when she’s used to.
“I mean, it feels a little bit weird because I’m a singles player,” she said with a wry smile, “and to be in the WTA Finals in doubles is a little strange, but I’m happy for that. Of course, I wish it would be in singles, but hopefully next year.”
Ostapenko was in contention to play the WTA Finals in both singles and doubles after her phenomenal start to 2022—winning the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships and reaching the semifinals of the Qatar Total Open the following week—and was famously the last woman to defeat Iga Swiatek before the No. 1 began her 37-match winning streak.
“If I’d done a couple more tournaments better, I still had a chance in singles,” she sighed. “I had chances in Guadalajara, so I was really fighting for it. I think, in general, my season in singles was good—better than the one before. I think I played more confidently, but during the season, I did get injured for the second time in my left wrist, which was not really a good thing.”
Though the injury stunted her singles results, the 25-year-old kept improving with Kichenok, reaching four finals and winning two titles—including the 1000-level Western & Southern Open. The two go all the way back to a $25K ITF Pro Circuit event in 2013, pairing up for the first time shortly after Ostapenko’s 16th birthday.
“I think we did pretty well,” she recalled at the draw ceremony.
“We won the title,” Kichenok had to remind her.
Despite plenty to play for, Ostapenko worried it would be tough to focus so close to the end of the season.
“It’s especially difficult right now because I’m only here playing doubles,” she repeated. “I feel like I already want to go on vacation so much because this season has been so long, plus there’s even one more tournament after this with Billie Jean King Cup. It’s like, I have to play for another two and a half, three weeks, but it’s ok because after that, I’ll go on holidays, and I can’t wait for it!”
Ostapenko ultimately earned her vacation in Fort Worth, playing three arduous round-robin matches and winning one over Beatriz Haddad Maia and Anna Danilina to reach the semifinals in style.
“I already planned everything. I’ve always wanted to go to the Maldives, so I’ll be going there for the first time. I’m really excited because I know it’s great there; I’ve seen all the pictures, and the beach is really nice. It looks like a great place to recharge and get mentally ready for the new season.”
Ostapenko quickly got into island mode, braiding her hair and brandishing her signature Riga Nails before touching down at the Vakkaru Resort.
“I’ve gone to Dubai three or four times for vacation but I felt like this time, I wanted something calmer,” she explained. “It can be so crowded in Dubai, with so many people and things to do.
“I also have so many friends who live in Dubai, and so you have to go meet and hang out with all them. That can be sort of tiring, to the point where you didn’t even feel like you were on vacation! There’s not as many overwhelming options as there are in Dubai: just the beach, water sports, and just places to calm down and recharge.”
While she plans to spend time with family and friends over Christmas and New Year’s, Ostapenko’s favorite holiday is still months away.
“I was born in the summer, so I like my birthday a lot. I’m not much of a winter person.”
Anyone who has ever visited the Ostapenko Instagram knows her birthdays are can’t-miss affairs—and it’s never too early to start planning.
“One year, it was maybe one or two days before to plan the whole party, which was really crazy because I always have to book the performers and singers! It ended up amazing, and really well-organized. This year was a bit more in advanced, maybe six weeks.
“I always like to have the local artists. There’s one, Intars Busulis, who always sings on my birthday. He’s from Latvia, and we’re really good friends. We always have so much fun and he’s really amazing, the way he pumps up the people and everyone starts to dance. Every party should be like that.”
Can a recharged Ostapenko keep the party going in 2023?