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Sports News

Ostapenko eyes consistency but faces tricky Pliskova test

(Reuters) - Jelena Ostapenko is on a mission to regain the form that earned her a maiden Grand Slam title at the French Open in 2017, but the Latvian faces a daunting task in the second round as she takes on second seed Karolina Pliskova on Thursday.

Tennis - Australian Open - Second Round - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - January 23, 2020 - Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko reacts during the match against Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji/Files

Ostapenko rose as high as number five in the world a year on from her Roland Garros triumph but has struggled on Parisian clay ever since, losing in the first round of the major in the past two years.

She took a step towards getting back on track with a 6-2 6-1 victory over American Madison Brengle in her opener.

“I have to be more confident in my game, more consistent,” the world number 43 told reporters.

“If there’s a consistency in my game, I think I’m going to be a very dangerous player and it’s going to be very, like, not easy to beat me.

“That’s what I’m working on. Sometimes I feel like I play well, and then some matches I don’t. But if I get my consistency back like in 2017 and beginning of 2018, I think I’ll be back in the top 10.”

Pliskova, who came into the tournament after having retired during the final of the Italian Open with lower back and leg issues, battled her way into the second round in Paris with a 6-7(9) 6-2 6-4 win over Egyptian qualifier Mayar Sherif.

The Czech said after her match that there was plenty of room for improvement in her performances and Ostapenko is aware of the threat her opponent poses.

“I played her many times. I kind of know how she plays. I’m just going to try to enjoy the match and play my game. I know she serves big, but in these conditions I think everything is totally different,” Ostapenko added.

“Anything can happen this year because it’s very different from normal conditions. I’m just going to try to play my game and enjoy it.”

Also in action on Thursday is Pliskova’s twin Kristyna, who meets 11th-seed and 2016 champion Garbine Muguruza. Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin faces Romania’s Ana Bogdan.

Novak Djokovic will resume his quest for a second French Open title when he faces Ricardas Berankis while Greek young gun Stefanos Tsitsipas plays Pablo Cuevas.

Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis

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