Jelena Ostapenko, the former world number five, is steadily gaining momentum in preparation for the Australian Open. On Thursday, she secured a spot in the Adelaide International semifinals with a 7-5, 6-3 victory over Marta Kostyuk. The 12th-ranked Latvian, known for her Grand Slam victory at the 2017 French Open, is showing signs of returning to her peak performance as she gears up for the Australian Open scheduled from January 14 to 28. Ostapenko is set to kick off her campaign against local player Kimberley Birrell.
Tuning into an Ostapenko match is like buckling up for a rollercoaster ride within a single game and across her career. But the low points have been far more limited than expected this season, with the 2024 Grand Slam champion making solid early progress in Brisbane and Adelaide.
Ostapenko began her Australian Open campaign with a quarterfinal win over Coco Gauff at the Margaret Court Arena, where she produced a dominant display that drew gasps of appreciation from the crowd. The former top-10 player played to her strengths, using heavy groundstrokes and an uncompromising style to put the Latvian teenager under pressure.
A flurry of winners, including a clinical backhand down the line that brought a delighted cheer from the crowd, gave her the first set, 6-4. Halep fought back well to take the second set, though Ostapenko took control in the third, breaking again to go 5-0 ahead and forcing her opponent to make mistakes with some precise serving.
The final set was another close affair, but Ostapenko prevailed, using her superiority on the return to impose herself and take control. She broke Halep in the fifth game, a dominant performance enough to send the third seed packing and lift the silver trophy for her first Grand Slam triumph.
Halep will rue not being able to clinch victory when she had the chance, especially with the pair tied on three break points in a long fourth game of the second set. The 20-year-old will hope to avoid any more slip-ups when she starts her tournament against Birrell on Sunday.
It is a high-quality field at Melbourne Park with world No. 1 Angelique Kerber, two-time major winner Serena Williams, and defending champion Victoria Azarenka, all absent with injury or pregnancy. But Ostapenko has demonstrated that she is the most dangerous player outside the world’s top 10 and is a real threat to anyone.
A win over Kasatkina in the semifinals will ensure that her Australian Open campaign continues positively, and she is likely to climb into the top 10 as a result. The Latvian is a hugely dangerous player and will use her power and speed to overcome the Russian’s solid defenses. The head-to-head record is very much in Kasatkina’s favor. Still, she must improve on her recent performances at the Adelaide International to challenge the title.