In 2017, Jelena Ostapenko made history by stunning Simona Halep in the Roland Garros final. A freshly minted 20-year-old, Ostapenko became the first unseeded player to win the Slam since 1933 and the first Latvian ever to hoist a major trophy. It would also mark her first career title.

But she's also got another unusual stat to her name: In her three other Roland Garros appearances, she has lost in the first round. In her 2016 debut she was felled by Naomi Osaka, in 2018 she lost to Katerina Kozlova and last year she was ousted by Victoria Azarenka.


Now going into a bizarre late-fall Roland Garros, she's accepting that her success relies on mentality and confidence most of all.

"I'm not trying to put pressure on myself to be the favorite of like the tournament or the matches," she said in Strasbourg. "Just trying to enjoy it and play my game."

By going for her huge shots and playing freely, she bashed her way through the draw in 2017 with wins over four seeds: Halep, Timea Bacsinszky Timea Bacsinszky, Caroline Wozniacki and Samantha Stosur.

The same care-free, bold Ostapenko hasn't really been seen since.

"I was not mentally ready to win a Grand Slam at this young age and it all came very sudden," the 23-year-old said. "I had so much attention from everybody. I would say my life kind of changed and everybody expected me to play the same almost every week I was playing, so it was kind of hard and I had to get used to it."

In the months following her unexpected major in 2017, she'd win in Seoul, qualify for the WTA Finals and finish the year at No. 7. In 2018, she'd get up to No. 5 and reach the semifinals of Wimbledon, making it seem like she would not be a one-hit wonder.

But then in 2019, she lost in the first round of three of the four Grand Slams. By August, she was out of the Top 80. Now with a respectable ranking of No. 43 thanks to a final run in Linz and a title in Luxembourg to wrap up 2019, she's feeling more like herself. In Paris, she'll still have more of an underdog vibe following her, even as a former champion.


"Now there are less expectations, but still some people expect a lot of me because they see a lot of potential in me," she said. "Mentally you have to be ready to play because physically I think I have all the opportunity to play at a high level."

While she skipped the New York swing, Ostapenko got some matches in on clay this month thanks to a quarterfinal run in Strasbourg complete with a win over world No. 8 Kiki Bertens. On Tuesday, she opened with a dominant win against American Madison Brengle, marking her first Paris win since 2017.

Unseeded once more, you cannot truly count her out.

"I always knew I can be on that level, it's just a matter of the time," she said after her Bertens win. "I'm getting slowly back there. I just need some more matches and confidence. I think I can be in like Top 5 where I was and win another Slam. That's what I'm working for right now."