Jelena Ostapenko def. Simona Halep  4-6 6-4 6-3
Latvia’sJelena Ostapenko claimed a little piece of history as she became her country’s first ever Grand Slam champion, beating the heavily favoured Simona Halep in three thrilling sets. From the first ball, her heavy pace and aggressive hitting had Halep on the back foot.
She broke at the start of the match, and never looked like she was tiring as she kept her nerve after losing the first set and going down 0-3 in the second set. Ostapenko, who only celebrated her 20th birthday in the semi-finals became the youngest player to reach the final at the French Open since 19-year-old Ana Ivanovic in 2007, and across the Grand Slams since a 19-year-old Caroline Wozniacki reached the 2009 US Open.
Her win makes her the youngest Roland Garros champion since Iva Majoli in 1997, and the youngest Slam winner since Maria Sharapova at the 2006 US Open.
She hit a staggering 245 winners on her way to the final and blasted 54 to Halep’s eight, and matched it however with 54 unforced errors on her way to the title. She put the secret of her success as the errors mounted to letting go some of the anxiety she felt before the match.
She said: “I knew I’m already in the final and I’m playing such a great player as Simona. And I was losing 6-4, 3-0, and then in my mind I was just, I’m just going to enjoy the match, and I will try to fight until the last point. And then I stayed aggressive and the match turned my way.
“I’m really happy to win here. I think I still cannot believe it, because it was my dream and now it came true. I think I’m going to only understand that in maybe couple of days or couple of weeks (smiling).”
Nerves all round
Halep came into the final with all to lose – she had been in this position before, and there was more for her to lose, especially from a commanding position of a set and a break up. Ostapenko explained:
“I was just still trying to play very aggressive and to go for a shot when I had the possibility. I think Simona, maybe she felt a little bit nervous because she had a lot of pressure. That also helped me. But also in the deciding moments, I think I played pretty well in those games. And was couple of deciding games and then the match turned the other way.”
From Halep’s point of view her first time out of the gates at a Slam final, she was surrounded by an entourage of around 50 family and friends, and this time she kept it simple – and it almost worked.
Halep told reporters after the match: “It is difficult, but I think I did it pretty well today. I stayed there, I was fighting, but I think she was better than me today. I was very close to take the first Grand Slam and also No. 1 in the world. So it was a little bit of like emotional moment, but that’s it. I think everyone has it, and it’s good.
“This one hurts a lot maybe because I am more — I realize more what is happening. Three years ago was something new, so now I know. Hurts a lot, and I need time just to — I don’t know. To go away (smiling).”
Business as usual for Ostapenko
The workmanlike approach for the Latvian paid off at moments when it looked like her unforced errors would be the undoing of her. She kept her sense of self-belief and far from being so giddy with the effect of winning her first Slam and becoming the first player to win their first tournament since Guga Kuerten 20 years to the day she was born, she was still looking for ways to improve.
“I’m really happy, but I still have to improve some things and to get better as player. And so I will work hard to climb the ranking and to maybe win some more titles.”
Imagine her improved form at Wimbledon where that powerful hitting should suit her game.
Ostapenko is next scheduled to play at ‘s-Hertogenbosch while Halep is scheduled to return in Birmingham.
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