Jelena Ostapenko’s “nothing to lose” mindset delivered the biggest upset of the US Open on Sunday as the hard-hitting Latvian sent defending champion Iga Swiatek crashing out.
The 26-year-old 20th seed had never lost to Swiatek in three previous meetings and made it four-out-of-four with a brilliant 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 victory on the Arthur Ashe Stadium.
The shock result sends Ostapenko into a quarter-final date with American sixth seed Coco Gauff on Tuesday, while Swiatek was left wondering where it all went wrong.
The defeat also ensures that Aryna Sabalenka will end Swiatek’s 75-week reign as world number one at the end of the tournament.
Ostapenko had been the butt of jokes earlier in the tournament after making 80 unforced errors in a fitful second round win.
But the Latvian had the last laugh with Sunday’s win, saying she had been inspired by the packed 23,000-capacity arena.
“I just honestly love to play on big courts with full stadiums and a lot of crowd,” Ostapenko said.
“It’s really the thing that we are working for and playing for.
“I had nothing to lose today. I knew it was going to be a tough match. I was ready for a battle.”
Ostapenko proved more than up for the fight, responding superbly after dropping the opening set against an opponent who had barely broken sweat on her way to the last 16.
“I’m really glad, even the first set I couldn’t find my game that way, but I was fighting and trying to find my game and be aggressive,” Ostapenko said. ” In the end I managed to win the match.”
– Adjusting to pressure –
“The main thing, again, I was trying to go for the shots. Maybe today in the second and third set I was a little bit more consistent and didn’t go for, like, crazy shots.
“I was going for shots when I had a chance of doing that.”
Ostapenko’s victory came six years after she announced herself to women’s tennis with a breakthrough victory in the 2017 French Open final just after her 20th birthday.
She has never been back to a Grand Slam final since that win at Roland Garros, and admitted on Sunday it had taken her time to get used to the pressure that accompanied that triumph.
“My whole life changed and I needed time to adapt to all that, that wasn’t easy because at that time I was 19 years old, turning 20.
“I was expecting that I can win a Grand Slam, but not at such an early age. Of course, it’s really difficult to get used to all this attention, pressure.
“Everybody expects you to win every single match, every single tournament. This is not possible because you are human and you cannot win every single match.
“I needed little bit time. I think it took me little while to get used to that. I feel now I’m more mature. I start to feel more loose when I play, I don’t think too much and I just enjoy it.”