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Did Jelena Ostapenko's parents' athletic past give her an edge in the competitive world of tennis?

It has been going on for generations!Jelena Ostapenko is all set to face Barbora Krejčíková in the quarterfinals of the Grand Slam. While Ostapenko is ranked much higher than her opponent, the challenges ahead are not to be underestimated. As she steps onto the court against Krejčíková, Ostapenko carries with her the wisdom and strength of her family’s athletic legacy. The nerves and pressure of the quarterfinals are intense, but she has the mental fortitude shaped by years of training and family support. But, how is her family connected to sports?

Born on June 8, 1997, the Latvian tennis star was introduced to the tennis world at the tender age of 5. Thanks to her mother Jelena Jakovleva, a former Latvian tennis player herself. Ostapenko’s journey with tennis began with her mother as her first coach. Jakovleva began her coaching career in 1994 and garnered immense success on the courts. She was even awarded the Latvia Youth Coach of the Year at the 2011 General Assembly of the Latvian Olympic Committee and trained the under-14 Latvian tennis team! In fact, a major part of her daughter’s success can be credited to her.

Jelena Jakovleva was Ostapenko’s coach in 2017 when she won her first and so far the only Grand Slam title at Roland Garros. The Latvian Union of Tennis had then named her the coach of the year as well. While her mother has garnered enough accolades for herself, Ostapenko’s father was not alienated from the sports world either.

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via Reuters

Jelena’s father Jevgenijs Ostapenko was a professional football player who represented Metalurh Zaporizhya, a Ukrainian football club. While he was not associated with the tennis arena initially, marrying a tennis coach and then having a daughter who pursued a career in tennis, made him closely associated with the sport, even serving as her fitness coach. Unfortunately, he suddenly passed away at the age of 43 in 2020. While the reason for his demise remains unknown, he played a crucial role in his daughter’s career.

Speaking after her father’s demise, Ostapenko revealed how supportive his father was about the sport. “My dad was always believing in me,” the Latvian star had remarked during her Australian Open campaign in 2020. As Ostapenko continues her Wimbledon run, she is on the verge of breaking an Open Era Record!

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Can Jelena Ostapenko end her grand slam title drought and break the Open Era record?

Jelena Ostapenko has been on an impressive run this season. However, she could not convert her remarkable performances to winning glory, especially at the Grand Slam tournaments. Now with the Latvian playing the quarterfinals in London, her desire to break the open era record would increase further.

In the past 56 years of the Open Era, the tennis arena has been revamped beyond measure. But one record stands tall, which Jelena might break given her impressive run. In the Open era, no player, man or woman, has ever won Grand Slam titles with more than a five-year gap between them. The record is currently held by Virginia Wade, whose second major trophy at the 1972 Australian Open was followed five years and six months later by her third title at Wimbledon in 1977. On the men’s side, Arthur Ashe had the same gap. He won his second major at the 1970 Australian Open and his third at Wimbledon in 1975. 

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For generations, the wisdom is that if the window to your grand slam victory is shut for more than 5-years, you will fail to get the old form back. Ostapenko, who won her last Grand Slam title in 2017, meanwhile, can break the record. If the Latvian goes on to win the title at Wimbledon this year, she will be the first player to do so after a seven-year gap. 

Can Jelena Ostapenko break the past records? Only time will tell.