“I felt the pressure,” she said.
Ostapenko, who blasted Gauff off the court in straight sets Sunday, knows something about that. After she came out of nowhere to win the French Open in 2017, her life turned upside down. She felt like everyone expected her to win every tournament, “which is crazy, because you are still a human and you cannot feel great every day,” she said. “A lot of attention from everywhere outside the court, like photo shoots and all those kinds of things. You became more popular in your country. Everybody is watching you.”
Currently ranked 17th, Ostapenko said she came to Australia hoping to begin a climb back into the top 10.
It’s worth noting that inside the locker room, no one is under the radar. Every player knows every other player’s strengths and weaknesses, who’s hot, who’s nursing an injury or having a crisis of confidence.
Both Gauff and Pegula said that they were not at all surprised that Rybakina, who played her first two matches on outer courts, just as she had for much of the summer and fall, had taken out Swiatek with her flat, thumping power that is ideally suited to the court conditions here.
“It’s a motivation to win even more,” Rybakina said last week of her court assignments.
Likewise, everyone in the locker room knows Pegula, who beat Swiatek earlier this month, has been playing the best tennis of her life, moving fast across the court, giving away so few points, forcing opponents to take whatever they can get from her, which hasn’t been much.
“That locker room is the most educated place in the world,” said Pam Shriver, the Grand Slam doubles champion who recently started coaching Vekic part-time.
Like everyone else here, Shriver, who was courtside Monday as Vekic beat Linda Fruhvirtova, a gifted 17-year-old from the Czech Republic, is pondering the so-called Netflix curse. No player featured prominently in “Break Point,” which was released 10 days ago, made it past the fourth round. Three withdrew with injuries just days before the tournament. Shriver wondered whether the players who had decided to participate in the series had taken the time to think through the effects that being part of a high-profile series might have on their psyches on the eve of the year’s first Grand Slam.