There hasn’t been much news about French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in the English-language media since the end of her breakout 2017 season.
The only standout piece of information was the departure of the coach who helped her get to No. 7 in the world, Anabel Medina Garrigues.
Medina Garrigues was named captain of the Spanish Fed Cup team. And she couldn’t do both jobs.
Ostapenko’s social media has been full of the events she’s been to, awards she’s received and a lot of sponsor activities.
But Thursday, a story did appear in the Latvian media that sheds some light on what her early-season plans are. And it includes the announcement of a new coach.
Sportacentrs.com, which bills itself as the “biggest sports portal in Latvia”, has a story that includes quotes from Ostapenko and her mother and coach, Jeļena Jakovļeva.
In it, it’s announced that Ostapenko will work with experienced Aussie coach David Taylor for 15 weeks in 2018.
In other words, Taylor (who worked with Samantha Stosur for many years, and also Naomi Osaka) will only be present for the bigger events.
(Google Translate being what it is, we’ll leave it to native Latvian speakers to get into the fine details in the story).
If we read it correctly, Taylor won’t join her until the start of the season. And in the meantime, Andis Yushka continues to work with her.
Ostapenko is scheduled to go to Thailand then Shenzhen, China and Sydney before the Australian Open. She likely will be the No. 7 seed.
In the story, there are definitely a few indicaators that life has changed for Ostapenko, in the wake of her 2017 success.
For one thing, mother Jakovleva indicates that preseason training is being compromised somewhat because of all the sponsor obligations.
Via Google Translate: “There is less time for workouts and free time, because we cannot say no. This week, we have to go abroad three times, so the training is *breaking out*. We have a coach from Australia waiting here. This is the first year, everything is new, so it is understood how to do next.”
Another interesting tidbit is the bit about Team Ostapenko having expanded in a major way. There’s now the coach, a fitness trainer, a physio, her manager, hitting partner and her mother.
That’s a big payroll, and a lot of extra things to deal with, and a big crew to travel around with as 2018 gets under way.
Fed Cup a question mark
Ostapenko also is not yet committing to playing Fed Cup for Latvia in February.
“I want to represent Latvia, but let’s see when the tournament will come closer,” she said.
She has been a faithful participant in Fed Cup the last three seasons.
The February Europe/Africa Group I event will take place just a few hundred miles away from her home, in adjacent Estonia.
The other interesting quote out of the story is that Ostapenko said she thinks she has a very good serve; she only needs more confidence in herself.
The 2018 season is going to be fascinating to watch, as Ostapenko works to avoid the “sophomore jinx” that has knocked a lot of players back down, after an initial breakthrough.
The road to the top of the WTA is rarely a straight line.
It’s a road that many other players before her have navigated, with varying degrees of success.
But it’s hard to bet against her.
(If you can read Estonian, and see any discrepancies between the rudimentary Google Translate version and the original, please bring them to our attention).