Halep to face Ostapenko in final
Originally published on 08/06/17 00:00
The Romanian will become the new world No.1 if she bags her maiden Grand Slam title against the unseeded Ostapenko on Saturday.
It was a smart first set display from Halep as she used her outstanding clay-court skills to outmaneouvre her opponent. The No.3 seed won the majority of the extended rallies and successfully exploited the Czech’s poor movement on her least preferred surface.
The opening set had been convincingly claimed by Halep, but Pliskova responded impressively. The Czech found a nice rhythm on serve and cracked 13 winners to claw her way back into contention.
In the final set shootout, Pliskova continued to pummel her groundstrokes and Halep – the best defender in the game – had to endure significant punishment. It was a pulsating contest but ultimately it was the Romanian’s counter-punching skills that proved to be the difference.
Pliskova, who would have become the new world No.1 with a victory, tried everything she could to puncture the Romanian’s defence, but it wasn’t enough.
"It’s an amazing feeling," said Halep."It was extremely tough – she’s No.3 in the world and a very tough opponent. It’s nice to be back in the finals, I hope this time I can play better. I take on a young player [Ostapenko], it will be an interesting challenge.”
It proved to be a birthday to remember for Ostapenko as she became the first Latvian to reach a Grand Slam final. The 20-year-old edged a dramatic contest with Timea Bacsinszky 7-6(4) 3-6 6-3 to record the biggest win of her career and earn the chance to play for the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen this weekend.
Ostapenko was a relentless attacking force from the outset. At every available opportunity the Latvian thumped the ball without a second thought, and her high-risk approach eventually earned her the ultimate reward.
A first set that ebbed and flowed, was taken in a tiebreak by the 20-year-old as her cogent forehand came to the fore.
Bacsinszky, who defended valiantly throughout the contest, was not prepared to let her French Open dream slip by without a fight and she used her variety – including the dropshot – to good effect and eventually squared the match.
Ostapenko was careless in the second set but she was focused and alert in the decider. Her winner-count began to rise at rapid speed and her weary Swiss opponent could not prevent the Latvian from making history.
“I am really happy, I love to play here,” said a delighted Ostapenko. “I’m just happy with the way I celebrated my birthday. I was always playing aggressive and hitting the ball hard when I have a chance, and it probably helped me to win today.”