Even with so many mistakes, Jelena Ostapenko walked away victorious at the US Open on Thursday. The 22-year-old was a mess but let her serve slowly improve and that helped her defeat Alison Riske 6-4, 6-3 on Grandstand Court at the Billy Jean King National Tennis Center.
Ostapenko committed 17 double faults and 53 unforced errors but had 25 winners that did the most damage to her opponent on the day.
The two met for the first time and both were hungry for another win under their belts. The young Latvian got back to winning ways by defeating Alexandra Krunic in straight sets.
With her hope to link a second with it, the former French Open champion faced a tough American who showed high levels of strength. Riske overcame a slow start against Garbine Muguruza and dominated her in the next two sets to end a slump in New York. With the newfound life, the 29-year-old was all-in to dig deep and use every element in her skillset to win.
Before she could perform those skills, she watched her opponent struggle to get a service across the court correctly.
The Latvian committed seven double faults yet found a way to play to deuce. After six breaks with Riske struggling early, Ostapenko went on to capture the hold that took nine minutes. Despite the terrible start for the 22-year-old, she went on to break Riske and consolidate it for a surprising 3-0 lead.
The gap for Ostapenko was due to the lack of returns from the American who underperformed and soon found herself down four games.
A light for the 29-year-old shined in the fifth as Ostapenko racked up her tenth double fault to give Riske enough room on the scoreboard to capture the break. Consolidating it with a hold began to show improvements on both sides of the ball for Riske who eyed a comeback.
She won a third straight but on her attempt to level the score at four-all, she blew her chance for the game point that Ostapenko took for a 5-3 lead.
With the chance to serve for the set and put the first behind her, she let Riske gain a breakpoint opportunity. The American lost her first chance but gained a second on deuce to sit a game down from leveling back.
She trailed on serve giving Ostapenko two set points but errors took her chance away. She gained another on deuce were a fight for control came to give her the win after 50 minutes.
It was clear that the former French Open champion had a lot wrong with 28 errors made but the difference on first-serve points won stood strongly with her.
She opened the second with a hard fight with Riske that spanned five breaks of deuce before a fourth AD point sealed the deal.
A key break for the Latvian opened the door to take off but Riske broke back in the third before leveling on deuce with a second break to win the fourth.
Ostapenko was again challenged for control in the fifth where Riske forced an extension that saw five breaks but the game remaining with the Latvian.
The 29-year-old answered with a hold in the sixth but the fight was on to level the match or give enough to Ostapenko to walk into the third round.
Ostapenko denied her that shot at a break and instead held her to a single point to lead. A massive break gave the 22-year-old a 5-3 lead with the balls in hand for the match. Staying focused, the Latvian reached two match points where on the second serve crosscourt, Riske sent it back wide to end her run in 1 hour and 42 minutes.
With a very messy finish, the Latvian knew that her current gameplay could not last forever and would be tested going into the third round where she would face Kristie Ahn or Anna Kalinskaya on Saturday.