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“When You Respect Someone Too Much…”: Jelena Ostapenko Recalls Playing Serena Williams for First Time in 2020

Tanmay Roy

"When you respect someone too much.......": Jelena Ostapenko Recalls Playing Serena Williams For First Time in 2020

Jelena Ostapenko has made it to the quarterfinals of the Italian Open 2024. She is looking to emulate Serena Williams, her idol when it comes to not just winning the title in Rome but in her career as well.

Earlier this year, Ostapenko stopped by the WTA Insider podcast to talk about many topics. In the episode, “In Conversation: Jelena Ostapenko Gets her Groove Back,” Ostapenko talked extensively about Williams and how daunting it was to play her for the first time.

Jelena Ostapenko and Serena Williams met for the first time at the Fed Cup 2020. Also known as the Billie Jean King Cup, the 2020-21 edition saw the US beat Latvia 3-1 in the Angel of the Wings Arena in Washington. Williams won the match 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-3) and got the US one step closer to entering the Fed Cup finals in Budapest, Hungary.

When speaking about that match and how she was feeling, this is what Ostapenko had to say.

“Sometimes when you respect someone too much, it can put pressure on you. In Everett, when we played Fed Cup [in 2020], I was playing against Serena and she was always my idol. I lost to her 6-7, 6-7. I felt like I was playing really well. When it came to the tiebreak, in both sets, in my head I thought, ‘Oh my god, I’m playing Serena.’ She was always my idol. I felt this didn’t help me to win,” recalled Ostapenko on the podcast.

Ostapenko admitted that looking at Serena Williams as her idol while playing against her, backfired completely. Looking back at it now, she is comfortable to talk about it.

“She can be my idol, but when I play against her I have to forget these things and I just have to see her as a player.”

In the match, Ostapenko did well to get both the sets into tiebreaks. But Serena Williams, being the great she is, just kept getting fiercer, faster, and stronger, eventually becoming too much for Ostapenko to handle. That remains the first and the only match they played against each other, as Williams retired in 2022.

However, Jelena Ostapenko has a memory of her lifetime as she got to beat Venus Williams once in her career.

That Time When Jelena Ostapenko Defeated One of the Williams Sisters

Jelena Ostapenko may not have defeated Serena Williams, but she earned one of the biggest wins of her career last year when she beat Venus Williams, Serena Williams’ sister. This was at the Birmingham Classic 2023, where Ostapenko won 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 against Venus Williams in their Round of 16 match.

After that match, Ostapenko brought up Serena again in a press conference and she was quoted as saying –

“My idol was always Serena and I was always watching her and you know, the way she was just on the court, firing it up and all the emotions, I really love it. And I think that what makes tennis great game. So, yeah, I mean I’m a little bit older now, but still have some experience and I hope I can be idol for some young kids,” said Ostapenko.

Ostapenko went on to win the Birmingham Classic last year, beating Barbora Krejcikova 7-6, 6-4 in the final.

Post Edited By:Dhruv Rupani

About the author

Tanmay Roy

Tanmay Roy


Tanmay Roy is a Tennis Journalist at The SportsRush, whose lifelong passion and zeal for the sport landed him this position. A writer with over 1000 articles under him, Tanmay fell in love with tennis in 2005 when Roger Federer defeated Andy Roddick in the Wimbledon final after a stunning three sets. Tanmay followed the likes of the Big Three - Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, and Rafael Nadal from the mid-noughties to now. His interest was stronger than ever after the wonderful 2009 Wimbledon Final which saw Roger Federer win after a see-saw 5-set match. His favorite female tennis player is Serena Williams and Monica Seles. Tanmay's favorite match-up to date is Roger Federer vs Andy Roddick in the 2000s. If possible, the John Isner vs Nicolas Mahut first round match at the 2010 Wimbledon is the only match Tanmay would love to watch Live by going back in time. Of late, he is a huge fan of Jannik Sinner and believes the youngster has the potential to break every record.

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