ROME — The sunken, statue-surrounded Pietrangeli technically may be the third court at the Foro Italico, but its reputation is that of the best atmosphere on tour. Year after year, it hosts some of the most memorable contests, with players roared on by true tennis devotees.

It’s fitting, then, that for the second year running Jelena Ostapenko has made it her home. A year ago, she notched a pair of stellar wins over Daria Kasatkina and Paula Badosa there on her way to her first Internazonali BNL d’Italia semifinal. This year, the No.9 seed was back at it with a 6-4, 6-2 second-round victory Friday against Anastasia Potapova.

Ostapenko managed to avoid one of her signature rollercoaster score lines, but she can pack tension and drama into even the most straightforward passage of play. She let a 4-1 lead slip to 4-4 in the first set, then required three set points to close out the last game. By this point, she had the crowd eating out of her hands. As she hammered a return winner to seal the set, a fan murmured in approval: “Bella! Bella!”

Few players can dig themselves into a hole with wild errors, then dig themselves out of it with scorching winners quite like Ostapenko. She will often do this repeatedly in a single game, and she will never disguise what she feels about it. Pietrangeli, of course, loved it. The feeling was reciprocal, even if the surface was slower than Ostapenko preferred.

“I feel like the vibe fits me well,” Ostapenko said afterward. “It’s a really nice court with so much history, and the statues around it. It’s probably one of the nicest and most historic courts.”

The most incredible aspect of Ostapenko’s moment on Pietrangeli was that it nearly didn’t happen. The match was initially scheduled for Court 1 and was only moved following the withdrawal of defending champion Elena Rybakina. Ons Jabeur and Sofia Kenin were shifted from Pietrangeli to Rybakina’s slot on Court Centrale, paving the way for Ostapenko to move to Pietrangeli.

Now she’s made it her home, perhaps “Penkotrangeli” should be made a Foro Italico fixture in 2025.


Leave a Reply