WATCH: Ostapenko was in far better form earlier in the week against Andrea Petkovic—and let everyone know it on Friday.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, a French quote that translates to a familiar idiom: “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

It’s a concept that has long applied to 2017 Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko—typically for the worse as her formidable ball-striking is too often undercut by inconsistency and emotional upheaval.

The last six months have largely seen Jelena’s Law in action, starting with an intriguing run to the Eastbourne title that ostensibly set her in good stead to repeat her 2018 semifinal finish at Wimbledon, only for her All England Club campaign to dissolve into a dramatic clash with Ajla Tomljanovic. Later that fall she barnstormed into the BNP Paribas Open semifinals but couldn’t close out former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka. Down Under in Australia, Ostapenko was on course for a decisive upset over fellow surprise French Open champ Barbora Krejcikova before going off the boil considerably to bow out in the third round.

For another player—especially one who had gone from No. 5 in 2018 to a low of No. 83 in the world back in 2019—these would be encouraging results, but not for one with standards as exacting as the young Latvian.

“I think I was playing better and aggressive today,” she insisted after the Azarenka defeat, adding, “Actually, I think I could win the match in two sets.”

She was equally recalcitrant towards Tomljanovic, who openly accused her of exaggerating an injury as the Court No. 15 crowd whooped at the unfolding feud.


“If I played at least 50% I would have beaten her,” she told gleeful journalists—most of whom had come to expect this level of audacity.

Thing were the same at the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy after playing Aliaksandra Sasnovich, a speedy Belarusian whom she’d never beaten in three previous attempts.

“As a matter of fact, I’m not quite happy with how I was playing today. I played much better in my last two matches,” she explained in Russian, later reacting to the subsequent English translation in her inimitably comic fashion.

The difference on Friday was that Ostapenko had won, shaking off a second set hiccup to seal the contest, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-3 and reach her fourth WTA semifinal since last June.

And she was right: she indeed played much better to make the quarterfinals, striking an astounding 40 winners to trounce former Top Tenner Andrea Petkovic in under an hour on Thursday.

Most importantly, the serve by which Ostapenko lives and dies was firing with incredible efficiency, allowing her to average a 66% first-serve percentage and make minimal double faults in her first two matches.


Ostapenko is in search of a fifth career title this week in St. Petersburg, having already won on all surfaces.

Ostapenko is in search of a fifth career title this week in St. Petersburg, having already won on all surfaces.

Sasnovich applied significantly greater pressure on return Friday afternoon, teeing off on second—and even some first—serves to keep the 24-year-old doubting just enough for that percentage to dip; by the end of the second set it had gone down to 50%.

In her trio of marquee defeats to Tomljanovic, Azarenka, and Krejcikova, Ostapenko has struggled to recover from lost leads and appeared poised for the same treatment when Sasnovich threatened to win a sixth straight game on her wobbling serve.

Emboldened by the match’s fast pace and her opponent’s equal efforts at aggression, she saved five break points to find herself back in position to reclaim the lead. She would ultimately save 10 of 11 break points in the decider move ahead 5-3 and, in an ironic twist, benefit from a Sasnovich double fault to edge over the finish line.

Ever the piece of work, it wasn’t quite enough for Ostapenko, who spent the on-court interview admonishing her errors—65 in total, one more than her 64 winners.

“I was rushing things on my serve for no reason, plus my opponent played one of her best matches I’ve ever seen her play.”

Ostapenko, by definition, is all but impossible to forecast; one more of those 11 break points go against her and she could have been out of the running to face either Belinda Bencic or Anett Kontaveit for a spot in the final.

But this piece of work may finally be a work in progress, one trending far better than even her own estimation. Things may mostly be the same on Planet ‘Penko, but enough change could still see her back at the top of the game—and playing even better than her former French best.